The Blue Jays are talking to right-hander Marco Estrada about a multi-year contract in advance of Friday's deadline for free agents to decide on qualifying offers, according to major-league sources.
Estrada, 32, could accept the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer, reject it and remain in the open market or sign a longer deal to remain in Toronto, where he put together the best season of his career.
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"We'd love to have him back," Jays interim general manager Tony LaCava said. "He was a big part of our success this year."
Two comparable free agents a year ago, right-handers Edinson Volquez and Jason Hammel, each signed two-year, $20 million contracts. Neither received a qualifying offer, so their new teams did not lose draft picks for signing them.
Estrada could face a weaker market while carrying the added burden of draft-pick compensation. If he accepted the qualifying offer, he could purchase insurance for additional security, then become a free agent again next offseason.
The collective bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 1, 2016, and it is now known whether qualifying offers will remain part of the game's economic structure. But if Estrada received another one next winter, he effectively could earn about $32 million for two years.
Estrada was a non-tender candidate with the Brewers last offseason before getting traded to the Blue Jays for first baseman Adam Lind. He produced a career-best 3.13 ERA in a career-high 181 innings, then had a 2.33 ERA in his three playoff starts.