Jays Swap Useful Player for League Average Reliever

With the trade of Adam Lind to the Milwaukee Brewers the Toronto Blue Jays hope to help Marco Estrada reach his full potential. It’s hard to argue that money is a significant factor in moving a useful base-clogger, but let’s dig into the particulars.

Lind is coming off a season where he was paid $7M on the first of three options so the Brewers have control over the last two at $7.5M in 2015 and $8M in 2016. These years can be bought out for $1M and $0.5M, respectively, but it seems crazy to think that will happen after trading for the guy. Lind is being paid like a 1 – 2 WAR player, but is that reasonable?

We see from his particulars that he’s coming off a very good year, but that his career shows a ton of volatility. When he hits he can be a useful player approaching two WAR with 3 – 4 a possibility when everything goes right, but when he doesn’t hit he’s basically a replacement level player. He doesn’t help his cause by being a poor defender that is relegated to 1B. A point in his favor is that he has huge splits that favor him facing the majority of pitchers in the show. 

Every team would prefer to have a guy that hits well against both types of pitchers, but those are expensive and harder to find than you think so if you can get one that kills righties and you have the ability to hide that guy against lefties, well, you’re putting your team in an excellent position. In 2014 the Brewers 1B debacle provided a whopping 85 wRC+ beating out only Team Texas as the Rangers and Astros played to tank starting in May. Additionally, the Brewers were middle of the pack against righties placing 17th with a 94 wRC+. This is a team who’s best players are right-handed and if they can bring back incumbent Mark Reynolds as the short-side of a 1B platoon you could be looking at a couple of thumpers that can cover each other’s weaknesses. Worst case, Lind puts up another stinker and the team pays him half a million to go away in 2016. This seems like a good gamble for this team, in this situation, so what did they have to give up?

From what I can tell Estrada will be staring down arbitration for the third and final time so the Blue Jays are acquiring a guy that made $3.3M last year and they’ll likely only get one season out of him without a longer term deal coming down the pike. Wise men talk about how there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal, but that remains to be seen since Estrada is coming off his worst season from an ERA/FIP standpoint, though he did bump his innings to a career high.

Estrada is similar to Lind in that he had a really good season a few years ago, probably profiles as a 1 – 2 WAR guy, but that comes with a ton of volatility that could see him approach replacement level. He has mostly been used as a swingman over his career starting when needed, and being the odd bird that has actually put up better numbers as a starter as evidenced by his career 4.20/4.20/3.76 ERA/FIP/xFIP as a starter which goes to 4.29/3.82/3.91 out of the pen. One plus for him is that he hasn’t posted large splits over his career:

When the Jays use him as a reliever he’s going to bring a very good change up that he’ll throw close to a third of the time (hence the small splits) and pair that with a below average high 80s fastball. This is a nice repertoire for a middle reliever though you would hope to get more groundballs than he historically has posted. When he’s a starter he mixes in a pretty bad get-me-over curveball that is similar in velocity to his change up.

The overall package does not leave me all that nervous as a fan of a team that will face this guy a bunch in the upcoming year and I struggle to really see why the Jays do this deal. Yes, Lind hasn’t been everything they hoped he would become, but it seems like a case where the team fixated on what he can’t do instead of what he can, though perhaps they see it as a nice sell high when looking at that BABIP. Who knows. Estrada could be a league average reliever, but seems more like a project than a sure thing. The Jays pen was bottom third in the league last year and they’re probably going to say good bye to last year’s closer Casey Janssen so the depth probably plays, but it seems like they gave up a nice role player signed to an ok enough deal to get a guy that doesn’t really have much shine to him. Time will tell, as always.

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About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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