Oakland added a onetime All-Star to its thin rotation mix Friday, signing former Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada to a one-year deal.
Estrada, 35, is a classic bounce-back candidate after enduring his worst season last year, going 7-14 with a 5.64 ERA and .274 opponents average. From 2015-17, he combined for a 3.88 ERA, and the A’s have a good track record of finding helping older starters regain their form in recent years, among them Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir, Bartolo Colon, and last year, Edwin Jackson.
One American League scout said Friday that he believes getting out the AL East will benefit Estrada, as will pitching in a bigger ballpark such as the Coliseum; he allowed 29 homers last season and 31 the year before that. The scout said he believes Estrada might be a good candidate to follow an opener, with the A’s planning to continue using relievers to pitch the first inning with some regularity in 2019.
“He’s a decent gamble pitching in a pitcher friendly ballpark,” another AL scout said.
Another scout said that Estrada “hasn’t been the same the last couple of years, battling physical issues and sporadic command laspes,” adding that he considers Estrada a fifth starter at best.
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“He has no margin for error,” the scout said. “He pitches up in the zone more than anyone and can’t miss out over the plate.”
Estrada’s overall track record is good, even if he’s lost some velocity on his fastball and even though his walk-to-strikeout ratio last season was 103-to-50. He recorded 176 strikeouts in 2017, he was an All-Star in 2016 and he put up a 3.13 ERA in 2015. His postseason numbers include a 2.64 ERA in 10 outings.
And the A’s don’t have many rotation options, with pitchers and catchers reporting two weeks from Sunday. Mike Fiers is the only starter back from the A’s rotation at the end of the season, and Daniel Mengden performed well in September as the pitcher who followed the opener. Paul Blackburn is expected to be healthy after wrist and forearm issues last year, and swingmen Chris Bassitt and Frankie Montas also will be among the candidates along with late-season addition Aaron Brooks. Minor-leaguer Grant Holmes is something of a wild card, coming off a rotator cuff injury that kept him out almost the entire 2018 season.
The most intriguing option will be top prospect Jesus Luzardo, who is widely seen as a good bet to be in the rotation in the first half – and maybe even the first week of the season.
Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk are returning from Tommy John surgery and are likely to be throwing off the mound this spring, but neither is likely to be ready to pitch in big-league games until May or June.
Parker Bridwell, claimed on waivers Tuesday, was outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Estrada on the 40-man roster. Bridwell, also in the rotation mix, will be a non-roster invite to big-league camp.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/athletics/article/A-s-sign-2016-All-Star-Marco-Estrada-to-a-13562214.php.