Posted on January 25, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Last year, the Oakland Athletics pieced together their starting rotation with forgotten veterans well past their prime. They appear to be taking a similar strategy with regard to their rotation for the 2019 season. On Friday, the A’s signed veteran starter Marco Estrada to a one-year deal worth $4 million. While not a high-priced free agent addition, the A’s are hopeful Estrada can add some much-needed experience and stability to their rotation.
The 35-year old Estrada spent the last four seasons with the Blue Jays. His first two years in Toronto went well, winning 22 games and posting an ERA under 3.50 both years. He was even selected to the All-Star team in 2016. However, Estrada has struggled the past two seasons, going a combined 17-23. He also posted an ERA of 4.98 in 2017 and 5.64 in 2018. Those numbers would suggest that Estrada is approaching the end of his career despite peaking just a few years ago.
That being said, Estrada continues to be a consistent innings eater. Despite a few minor injuries during his time in Toronto, he made at least 28 starts for the Blue Jays in each of the last four seasons. Also, none of the DL stints in his career have been for arm-related injuries. While many would consider him to be a little undersized for a starter, Estrada has proven to be rather durable. While limited to 143.2 innings in 28 starts last year, Estrada gave the Blue Jays at least 176 innings in the three previous seasons.
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The A’s are no doubt banking that Estrada can at least be an innings eater at the back end of their starting rotation. Oakland has good depth in their bullpen, so they can live with getting five or six innings from Estrada as long as he’s able to take the ball every five days. It’s also worth noting that the A’s play their home games in a rather pitcher-friendly ballpark, which could benefit a flyball pitcher like Estrada.
Barring a shopping spree late in the offseason, Estrada figures to help anchor Oakland’s rotation in 2019 alongside fellow veteran Mike Fiers. Sean Manaea and Andrew Triggs are unlikely to be available this season after both underwent serious surgical procedures on their pitching arms last September. That leaves the A’s with a contingent of young and largely unproven pitchers to fill out their rotation behind Fiers and Estrada.
It’s looking like a strong possibility that the A’s will need top-prospect Jesus Luzardo to fill out their opening day rotation. The 21-year old lefty made just four starts in triple-A last season, so Oakland might prefer to give him more seasoning rather than forcing him to start 2019 in the big leagues. The likes of Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Paul Blackburn, and Chris Bassitt will all be competing during spring training for one of the spots in the back end of Oakland’s rotation.
Needless to say, there is a great deal of uncertainty in Oakland’s rotation heading into the season. But the addition of Estrada does fill one spot while giving the A’s some stability. Ultimately, Oakland’s younger starters will likely determine how good the team is in 2019. In the meantime, Estrada is a safe bet to eat up some innings and give the A’s another veteran in an otherwise young starting rotation.