TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays extended free agent Marco Estrada a qualifying offer of $15.8 million ahead of Friday’s deadline, ensuring they’ll receive a compensatory draft pick if the right-hander signs with another team.
Estrada has until Nov. 13 to either accept or reject the offer, and the history of qualifying offers suggests he will do the latter. Since the qualifying offer system took effect in the winter after the 2012 campaign, no player has accepted one.
The 32-year-old, an unlikely candidate for a qualifying offer coming into 2015, enjoyed a career season, posting a 13-8 record with a 3.13 earned-run average (fifth in the American League) over 181 innings in 34 games, 28 of them starts. At 6.663, his hits per nine innings was lowest in the AL while his WHIP of 1.044 was second only to Dallas Keuchel.
He also delivered two gems in elimination games during the post-season.
Whether or not such a strong season is replicable in 2016 is a good question. His defenders will point to the improvements in his curveball and development of a cutter, while detractors will point to his .216 batting average on balls in play being 50 points lower than his career average and his 4.40 Fielding Independent Pitching measure being more than a run off his ERA.
Extending the qualifying offer is an intriguing move for the Blue Jays, who would have had to feel comfortable enough in paying Estrada $15.8 million for 2016 in the event he accepts. Given that their rotation to this point only includes Marcus Stroman and R.A. Dickey for certain, the offer hints at them having enough money to work to fill other holes should Estrada return.
The focus now shifts to Estrada, who must decide between taking a big one-year payoff before re-entering the market next fall, or seeking the security of a multi-year commitment with a lower annual average value.
His representatives can begin negotiating with other teams Saturday.
Some players have been negatively impacted by being qualified as some teams are reluctant to surrender a first-round pick to sign free agents, but given his performance some in the industry don’t think his market will be impacted much.
Since they made the offer, the Blue Jays clearly think the market will value him highly enough to warrant the move.
Free agent David Price is not eligible for a qualifying offer because he was traded mid-season.
In other news, the Blue Jays also promoted Joe Sheehan to director of analytics from his role as manager, baseball research and development.