It’s been a disappointing season for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sitting in dead last in the American League East Division, at this point, the playoffs are a pipe dream. They’re 6.5 games back of a wild card position, and need to leapfrog seven teams to get there.
It’s not happening this year.
The team which has enjoyed back-to-back appearances in the ALCS is clearly past their prime. At minimum, GM Ross Atkins needs to do some retooling.
A good place to start would be to trade pending free agent pitchers Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano before the July 31 deadline.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, they may just have to take whatever they can get for these struggling veterans, despite multiple reports connecting contending teams to the pair.
Despite their high profile, the stats sheet has not been kind to both pitchers. Estrada is 4-7 with a 5.43 ERA this season, while Liriano is 6-5 with a 5.99 ERA.
Estrada and Liriano’s stock has fallen so far in recent weeks that the Blue Jays could get something for them, but not much. We’re not talking Aaron Judge, it’s more like Aaron “Juror Number Six”.
At this point, the best the Blue Jays could do in exchange for one of their veteran starting pitchers is a fringe prospect at best, guaranteed to be a name you’ve never heard of before.
As tough as it may be to let go of two key members of the starting rotation, it’s a necessary move for the Blue Jays, particularly given their age (Estrada is 34, Liriano 33). It’s a testament to how far Estrada and Liriano’s stock has fallen since Opening Day.
If the Kansas City Royals come calling for Marco Estrada, it shouldn’t be a case of “if” the Jays should deal him, it’s ‘can we get something … anything for him?’
The same goes for Liriano, who’s actually had a more tumultuous season between the two starters. The upside with Liriano for a perspective team is 1.) he’s left-handed and 2.) a club could opt to stick him in the bullpen. Estrada doesn’t come with those options.
To me, Estrada seems like the perfect fit for a team like the Kansas City Royals (who currently occupy a Wild Card spot). His fly ball tendencies play well in a big ballpark like Kaufman Stadium and shifting from the AL East to AL Central could only stand to benefit Estrada.
Liriano’s a slightly more versatile option for prospective contenders. Something tells me he may ultimately be dealt a National League team – where his stuff could also play better outside of the hitter-friendly American League East.
Knowing their luck this year, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Blue Jays potentially trade Estrada and he enjoys the change of scenery and pitches well down the stretch. But the way he’s been throwing as of late, Estrada isn’t doing the Blue Jays any favours as of late.
In fact, there’s a possibility the Blue Jays may not fetch anything at all in return for these starters; a team may only offer salary relief. There’s about $7 million left on Estrada’s contract and about $5 million left on Liriano’s.
If a trade partner even offered to pay the remainder of those pitcher’s salary, I think the club would probably have to make that move. At the very least, the salary relief could be put towards the Blue Jays’ future payroll.
You’d hate to see these guys traded away for a bucket of balls, but the Blue Jays don’t really have any other choice but to sell Estrada and Liriano for pennies on the dollar. And if the team has no intention of re-signing these guys anyway, then why not at least recoup something?
Even if these pitchers aren’t traded by the non-waiver trade deadline on Monday, there’s still a very strong possibility both of them slip through waivers and the Blue Jays make explore trade possibilities in the month of August.
In a perfect world, Estrada and Liriano would exit on the own terms and would finish the season strong for the Blue Jays. But given how most of the season has gone already, I wouldn’t expect either of them to bounce back.
In that case, it’s best to just put these guys on the market and see what they can fetch in return … if anything.