A more consistent and successful September from the Marco Estrada that Toronto Blue Jays fans are accustomed to seeing pitch probably was the difference between him staying with the team versus testing free agency this winter.
The Blue Jays announced through a news release Wednesday afternoon they have signed the 34-year-old right-hander to a one-year extension worth $13 million US.
"I'm extremely optimistic about our chances next year," Estrada said. "That was the main reason why I wanted to come back. I feel like things are about to happen for this team."
Estrada, who had pitched to a 5.17 earned-run average prior to the July all-star break, has won two of his three starts this month with a 1.80 ERA and allowed only 10 hits and four walks over 20 innings while striking out 14.
Estrada sports a 3.75 ERA in his past 10 starts, a far cry from a dismal 10-start stretch in June and July during which the native of Sonora, Mexico posted a 8.87 ERA and 1.019 on-base-plus slugging percentage against.
He had been vocal about his desire to remain in Toronto and reiterated that after his last home start on Sept. 11, a 4-3 win over Baltimore in which he allowed two runs.
"If I can show that I'm back to my normal self, what I've done for the last few years for these guys maybe they'll want me back," Estrada said. "I'm hoping to come back. I'm trying to show them I'm still that guy. I've just got to keep pitching well."
Estrada is 9-8 with a 4.84 earned-run average over 31 starts this season and 31-25 with a 3.81 ERA over three combined years as a Blue Jay.
Home runs have always plagued Estrada but more this season than his previous two as a Blue Jay. He has surrendered 29 long balls in 2017 compared to 23 last season and 24 in 2015 over similar innings pitched.
Estrada is finishing out a two-year, $26-million deal he signed after his breakout first season in Toronto when the former swingman set career highs in victories (13), ERA (3.13) and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 1.04.
The popular hurler is expected to slot in behind Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ next season.
"I knew in my heart I wanted to come back," Estrada said. "It's the right move for me."
In 533 2/3 innings with Toronto, Estrada sports a 3.81 ERA and 1.175 WHIP.
He was acquired in trade with Milwaukee on Nov. 1, 2014 when then-general manager Alex Anthopoulos sent first baseman Adam Lind to the Brewers in return.
Estrada starred on the mound in each of the past two years in the post-season, posting a 2-1 record and 2.33 ERA over three starts in 2015, the lowest ERA among all starters in those playoffs.
Last fall, he was even more effective, fashioning a 2.01 ERA in three outings.
General manager Ross Atkins said Estrada is an "incredible teammate" and proven performer.
"One of the things that's most exciting about Marco to probably all potential 30 teams that would look to acquire someone like himself, is his ability to be the exact same or better in playoff scenarios, which he's done for us," Atkins said.