The Blue Jays agreed to a one year, 13 million dollar extension with Marco Estrada, which they announced on Wednesday. What does that say about the club’s intensions for 2018?
We’ve talked about it an awful lot for it only being September, but it’s hard not to look ahead to the 2018 season after a disappointing campaign. The Blue Jays are still in last place in the AL East, but have enough talented pieces that it’s easy to visualize things haven’t gone a lot differently.
One of the offseason question marks has already been answered with the Blue Jays re-upping with Marco Estrada. His one year, 13 million dollar contract is good for both sides (as I mentioned yesterday in this article), and it probably represents a fair dollar amount for the would-be free agent. I think he likely could have gotten two years, or at least an option on the open market, but we’ll never know for sure.
One of the things Blue Jays’ writers and fans will immediately start talking about is what Estrada’s signing means for the future, and specifically for 2018. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have been on record as saying they want to contend in 2018, but the fear/narrative around the Jays lately has been of a roster rebuild. Having Josh Donaldson (and also J.A. Happ) entering their final year of control has the fan base pretty divided about the best course of action going forward.
Depending on who you ask, that question has been answered by Estrada’s contract extension. Andrew Stoeten from bluejaysnation.com argued that signing Estrada likely means the team is serious about contending in 2018, and he makes a few very valid points in his article.
Jeff Blair of Sportsnet has a slightly different point of view, arguing that Estrada’s signing doesn’t mean anything in regards to 2018. Blair literally starts his article by saying:
“I hate to spoil the narrative, but I’m not sure that Marco Estrada taking a pay-cut to sign a one-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays indicates any shift in any philosophy on anybody’s part or, for that matter, a sense that the team is re-committing itself to 2018.”- Jeff Blair
And he makes some valid points as well. The point is, Estrada’s signing can be viewed through a few different viewpoints, and they’re probably all correct. Blair goes on to say that Estrada fills a need for the Blue Jays regardless of how they see 2018, throwing some much needed innings, and providing valuable trade bait at next year’s deadline if he’s performing well. He’s absolutely correct that we’re in for a season very much like 2017 for Estrada, and hopefully a re-set will produce some more consistent results for the 34 year old.
We’ve talked about next season a lot here at Jays Journal, both on the literary side, and also on our Jays Journal Podcast. Even without our own circle of writers and show guests, the opinions are pretty divided among many baseball minds I respect. On one hand, this is a team that is at the end of a window of contention with stars like Edwin Encarnacion already gone, and Jose Bautista on the way next. With Donaldson a year away from being a free agent, the argument to trade him and start the rebuild does have validity.
On the other hand, having a solid core in place as they do now, coupled with three remaining years of control of pitchers like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Roberto Osuna, breeds a feeling of emergency, not wanting to waste the window that those pieces bring if they can stay healthy and productive.
To me, Estrada represents the best of both worlds in that philosophy. Some might call it “sitting on the fence”, but I like this particular move for a number of reasons. The Jays will need some innings, especially without knowing what they’ll get some Aaron Sanchez, and Estrada provides that. Jeff Blair was also correct in pointing out that he’ll be a potentially valuable trade chip if the Jays struggle again next year. But mostly, he’s a worthwhile investment because it’s a one year deal with a known commodity, and someone who has a really good chance of giving the Blue Jays a bargain in 2018.
Pitching is never cheap, and even if the Blue Jays are in need of a rebuild, having an arm like Estrada under contract for just one year at a reasonable cost is a plus for the team. It may not tell us all we would like to know about their philosophy for 2018, but that’s okay for now. The free agency rumours will begin soon enough.