Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
The Toronto Blue Jays have made their first move to secure their starting pitching staff by agreeing to a contract extension with Marco Estrada. To boot -
Given how thin that depth was thin the depth was within the starting rotation, the Jays were wise to jump on this as quickly as possible. It's no secret that it's been historically difficult for the Blue Jays to be able to lure free agents to uproot across the border and play for them, as much of a non-issue as it may be in reality. So for the Jays to be able to begin the solidification process when it comes to the starting rotation now rather than wait and let the market come to them is a very good sign.
Further, to be able to bring back a player that not just claims but demonstrates that he would love to remain a Blue Jay and play and Toronto is a double bonus. Being familiar with what it's like to play for a city as passionate as Toronto is, and understanding the expectations and standards that we (often times irrationally) set up for those that play for the Jays, to have a player that wants to be a part of that is something that shouldn't be ignored.
But intangibles aside, this is a solid signing for the Jays. With just a $13MM commitment is something that shouldn't result in a lot of complaining. Yes, it's true that Estrada was pretty bad over the course of the first half of the season. It reached a point where many Jays fans were clamoring to have him traded at the deadline along with Francisco Liriano at the deadline in order to replenish the farm system. During that time, Estrada started 18 games, recording a 8-10 record, facing 441 batters, giving up 106 hits, 58 runs - all of which were earned, 39 walks, 17 home runs, 110 strikeouts, and holding an ERA of 5.17. Given how dissimilar these numbers were from what we were used to when it came to Estrada, if you told me then that he and the Jays would reach this agreement now, I would've thought it was a bad signing. But this is when we ignore what he's done during the second half of the season after the All-Star Break.
Since July 16 and up until this point, Estrada has looked more like his old self and seems much more in control than he previously did. To boot, since and including that date he's started 13 games, with a 7-6 record, facing 322 batters, giving up 68 hits, 37 runs, 37 runs - all of which were earned, 28 walks, 12 home runs, 60 strikeouts, and holding an ERA of 4.40. Considering how much of an improvement these numbers seem to illustrate, I can understand why the Jays would want to reach a deal with Estrada before he could be exposed to the open market this off-season.
The concerns are still there, though. Don't get me wrong, we still are justified in wondering whether or not history will repeat itself and Estrada becomes one of those "second-half pitchers" - something that the Jays can't afford to have if they legitimately plan on competing next season. Further, with Estrada's back issues being a historically lingering issue, it's fair to wonder if he'll be able to live up to the contract and consistently perform like we expect someone who makes #13MM to.
Yet, even with that, it's definitely something that I can get behind. Moreover, I find the aggressiveness of the front office to be somewhat compelling and, hopefully, a sign of what to expect in the off-season (I know... I know... but let me dream). The lack of starting pitching depth was definitely a huge detriment for the Jays this season, as mentioned by Greg Wisniewski in the latest episode of the South of the 6ix Podcast, Hopefully this can be viewed as some sort of evidence that illustrates that Atkins & Shapiro will be much more aggressive in their pursuit of depth in the rotation to prevent the woes that were experienced this year.
Regardless, it's hard to hate this signing. I'm glad Marco Estrada is sticking around, at least for one more year.
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