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Oakland A’s release Marco Estrada

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This free agent signing just didn’t work out.

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s released starting pitcher Marco Estrada on Tuesday, the team announced.

The A’s signed Estrada as a free agent last winter to a one-year, $4 million contract. His first three starts were solid, but then he exploded his next two times out to the tune of 13 total runs. The culprit turned out to be his back, which has bothered him for years now, and he landed on the injured list on April 17 and hasn’t returned to the majors since.

Estrada, 2019: 6.85 ERA, 23⅔ ip, 11 Ks, 8 BB, 7 HR, 7.53 FIP

The right-hander, who turned 36 years old in July, was on the 60-day IL, so he wasn’t taking a spot on the 40-man roster and this move therefore does not clear out a roster spot.

“His back issues weren’t getting a lot better,” reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. “[Manager Bob] Melvin says Estrada just wasn’t able to get stretched out enough to start with his back issues and the A’s didn’t feel he was an option in relief,” she adds.

Meanwhile, the A’s rotation has filled in nicely over the last couple months, even in the absence of Estrada and the suspended Frankie Montas. Mike Fiers is pitching out of his mind, Brett Anderson and Chris Bassitt have plugged along nicely, and trade acquisitions Tanner Roark and Homer Bailey have both helped out since arriving. On top of all that, Sean Manaea is expected to come off the IL soon, and top prospect Jesus Luzardo is once again healthy in Triple-A.

Hot takes

Oakland needed to add a few affordable veteran starters last winter, but Estrada isn’t the one that Athletics Nation would have picked. He was a recent All-Star and his ability to generate popups could have worked well in the Coliseum, but the signs of decline were already showing. Here’s what I had to say about the signing back in January:

I’m not going to pretend like I see anything in Estrada. His numbers have gotten worse in a bunch of important ways right as he’s gotten older, and his Statcast xwOBA tanked last year down into the bottom-third of the league (after being excellent the previous three years). But the A’s see something in him, and I’m done doubting them on pitching pickups — if they like him, then I’m willing to withhold judgment until we see what he’s got.

Whatever the A’s saw in him didn’t work out after all, though more because of health than performance. That’s at least mildly surprising, since durability had been among his strengths for most of his career, but also not a complete shock since his back problems had already been an issue for a while and he’s a pitcher in his mid-30s. His first three starts each carried xwOBA marks below .300 (that’s good), but we never got a long-term chance to find out if that was an encouraging sign or just an early-season fluke.

All that said, the A’s still did well with their other two SP signings, for Fiers and Anderson. Two outta three ain’t bad on the bargain veteran starter market. And anyway, the other right answers in Estrada’s price range turned out to be Wade Miley (great) and Martin Perez (decent), and I’ll bet Miley was perfectly happy signing with the Astros superteam and I don’t remember anyone on AN asking for Perez. Whoever else you wanted with the Estrada money probably would have also busted.

Best of luck to Estrada in his recovery, and with whichever team he ends up next!