Billy Beane (left) and Bob Melvin review the 2018 Oakland Athletics season on Oct. 5, 2018. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

Oakland Athletics sign veteran right-hander Marco Estrada

OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics have agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Marco Estrada on a one-year deal, the club announced on Friday.

Estrada, 35, signed for $4 million according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. In a corresponding move to make room on the 40-man roster, Parker Bridwell, who was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, was outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Last season for the Toronto Blue Jays, Estrada was 7-14 with a 5.64 ERA in 28 starts, allowing a .274 opponents batting average, but his previous track record, plus pitching in the spacious Oakland Coliseum, could make him a good value pickup, especially for a team that had to start 14 different pitchers last season.

“He’s got such a good changeup, such a good offspeed arsenal, he’s a veteran guy that’s going to be good for us,” manager Bob Melvin said at the team’s media day on Friday at the club headquarters at Jack London Square. “He’s not afraid to give you some innings, and whenever you have a guy with a down year, with some injuries, he’s looking to bounce back. I know he’s excited. I talked to him today. He’s excited about the team. He saw us from afar, and loves the clubhouse, loves the guys.”

After losing Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson to free agency, and with ace Sean Manaea still at least half a season away from returning to the mound after shoulder surgery, the A’s are faced with yet another year with an uncertain rotation.

Apart from re-signing Mike Fiers and bringing back Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn and Frankie Montas, there isn’t a lot of experience among A’s starters on the 40-man roster. Jharel Cotton will be in camp for spring training, as will Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk. Neither of the latter two have any big league service time, and both Puk and Cotton are coming off of Tommy John surgery, and not expected to be able to pitch in games for a matter of months, meaning their big league debuts would come at mid-season, at the earliest.

The A’s have been in touch with Estrada’s representatives ever since the Winter Meetings, looking to add another experienced arm potentially at a discount, given the hip and back issues that sapped Estrada’s velocity in his final season in Toronto. After watching his workouts the last two weeks, the club was satisfied.

“Command, as outstanding as ever. His changeup has always been one of the best pitches in the league, and a guy we fully expect to bounce back and be near the top of our rotation in 2019,” said A’s general manager David Forst at the club’s media availability on Friday afternoon.

In his first three seasons in Toronto, against the offensive gauntlet that is the American League East, Estrada went 32-26 with a 3.88 ERA and .222 opponents average in 96 games, including 90 starts.  His best season came in 2015, when he went 13-8 with a 3.13 ERA. He was named to the American League All-Star Team in 2016. 

In 2015 and 2016, Estrada had WAR values of 3.9 and 3.6, respectively, and in 2017, he still posted a 2.2 WAR.

Estrada made his Major League debut with Washington in 2008 and appeared in 15 games over two seasons with the Nationals before spending five years in Milwaukee.

Over 11 big league seasons, Estrada has a career record of 62-66 with a 4.24 ERA and .237 opponents batting average in 278 games, including 189 starts.  He’s also pitched in the postseason in 2011, 2015 and 2016, where he went 3-3 with a 2.64 ERA in 10 games, including six starts.

Oakland ideally would like to see 160-180 innings from Estrada, who has averaged 179 innings per season.

“He’s a guy who’s done it in the past,” Forst said. “As we look at our rotation and all the candidates, that’s the idea, for those guys to go out there and be five, six-plus inning guys. I know there’s a lot of talk about how teams are going to use their starters and use openers and whatever, but everyone is shooting to have five starters out there to give you innings. I don’t think we’re going to put any limits on Marco.”

The A’s were forced to use an opener nine times during the regular season, and again in the playoffs, because eventually, the injuries became too much to bear. Oakland is still looking to make more additions to both the starting rotation and the bullpen, specifically a left-handed reliever.

Fiers and Estrada are expected to be at the front end of the rotation, followed by Mengden, Blackburn and Chris Bassitt. The A’s also think highly of Aaron Brooks —who cameoed down the stretch after being acquired after the deadline to add players eligible for the postseason roster. Montas, who is out of options, will get the chance to start, and Luzardo could get a shot as well, although he has no expectations beyond improving on his limited time at Triple-A Sacramento last season. Luzardo making his big league debut this season has not been ruled out.

“If he’s good enough, there’s no reason not to have him in the rotation,” Forst said. “It’s obviously a big leap for someone who’s only thrown a few innings in Triple-A, but he’s going to get a nice, long look. As long a look as you can get in 32 days, or however long we’re down there.”

Bridwell went 1-0 with a 17.55 ERA in five games with the Angels and 1-1 with an 8.68 ERA in six starts with Triple-A Salt Lake last season. He had two stints on the Bees disabled list with an inflamed right elbow, missing time from April 19 to May 17 and June 8 to Sept. 10. He will be a non-roster invitee to spring training.

“Parker, we claimed, we’d seen a lot of him in the division,” Forst said. “Frankly, we’re just trying to add to our depth. He’s the guy we felt like, if we could get him through waivers ourselves, have him as a non-roster, he comes in and competes for a spot, either way.”

This story has been updated with quotes from the Oakland A’s media event on Friday afternoon.MLB

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