Blue Jays’ Atkins sees benefits of not trading Estrada

Toronto Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins joins Primetime Sports to discuss the art of making a deal in the MLB and how his team was able to benefit from the strength of other teams.

The Toronto Blue Jays made a pair of trades Monday ahead of MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline, but they likely could have made more if not for the erosion of Marco Estrada’s value over the last several months. The 34-year-old pitched to an 8.87 ERA over his 10 starts leading up to the deadline, which likely made teams looking for starting pitching help turn elsewhere.

But in an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s Prime Time Sports Tuesday, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said he saw benefits in not moving Estrada, especially when it comes to the possibility of bringing the pending free agent back to the club in 2018.

“Really, that’s one of the benefits of having not traded him. It increases our likelihood to stay more engaged and focus on him as an alternative for 2018,” Atkins said, speaking with Bob McCown and Arden Zwelling. “We’ll see. That takes two parties. And we’ve got to work through alternatives, and work though all of the scenarios.”

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It stands to reason, however, that Atkins and the Blue Jays would have preferred to move Estrada Monday in exchange for future pieces with an eye toward trying to bring him back in free agency this off-season. But Estrada’s recent performance and a buyer’s market for pitching made that a difficult task to accomplish.

“Yeah, I think it was somewhat of a buyer’s market. It appeared that way at the start. It felt that way going through it,” Atkins said. “Performance is certainly something that impacts decision making. I do think the bulk of someone’s performance is what most teams are hanging their hat on. Having said that, it’s a lot easier to sign up for someone who’s just crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s and is absolutely dominant. All of that is information. And everything gets factored in.”

Estrada pitched a terrific outing for the Blue Jays just hours after the deadline, throwing seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball against the Chicago White Sox Monday night. Atkins told McCown and Zwelling that start gave him hope that Estrada had turned a corner with his struggles.

“Marco is an incredible athlete, professional, pitcher, person. He’s going to have a lot of good baseball ahead of him,” Atkins said. “I’m very confident in that. I think he had a tough stretch, which most professional baseball players do. I think that’s all it was.”

One move the Blue Jays did make was shipping Francisco Liriano and cash to the Houston Astros for Nori Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez, a 24-year-old outfielder who Atkins has said is essentially major-league ready. For Atkins, that move was about the Blue Jays continuing to build depth and transition their current aging team into a younger, more athletic one they envision challenging for championships down the line.

“It’s not going to happen overnight that we have a robust farm system and we have a very young, controllable major league team that’s extremely athletic, extremely versatile, extremely durable, with depth,” Atkins said. “We benefitted from [Houston’s] depth greatly. I don’t think that Teoscar Hernandez would’ve been available to us had they not had so much outfield depth. They were moving from an area of depth that most teams with an asset like that are not moving at a trade deadline in a rental scenario.

“That’s a compliment to [Houston.] They’ve been able to build up that much depth. We’re going to continue to obsess on that, on building from the bottom and building from within. It’s just going to take time. If we can continue to win while we’re doing that, that’s the grand slam. That’s the home run. That’s what we’re trying to do.”


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