By Bob Elliott
When the Toronto Blue Jays brass gathered in Phoenix for a front-office meeting Oct. 20 it was decision-making time:
Before looking ahead to next season, the Jays brass had to decide what to do about the players they held options on for 2015.
“We decided we were going to decline the option on Adam Lind,” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos “and once we decided that we decided to explore a deal.”
The Jays send Lind, longest serving member of the club, to the Milwaukee Brewers for right-hander Marco Estrada on Saturday.
Toronto also picked up the option on lefty JA Happ ($6.7 million US) and catcher Josh Thole ($1.75 million).
And they didn’t pick up the option on first baseman Justin Smoak, 27, who hit .202 with seven homers and 30 RBIs this year with the Seattle Mariners. Smoak is eligible for salary arbitration and the Jays will try to broker a new deal.
If the thinking was Lind’s $7.5 million option was not going to be picked up, adding Estrada has to be a gain for the Jays.
The Jays still have holes to fill in both the outfield and the bullpen, Estrada could partially address that, compiling a 2.89 ERA in 21 games in relief when he walked nine and struck out 35 in 43 2/3 innings.
”This deal’s about reconfiguring the roster,” Anthopoulos said on a conference call. “It gives us a lot of flexibility moving forward and also allows us to reallocate some dollars to some other areas of need.”
Of course, the Jays could turn around and flip Estrada for a club with an outfield surplus and in need of a candidate for it’s starting rotation.
A number of teams expressed interest in Lind initially but only two clubs made serious offers, the Brewers and an American League Central club.
Estrada, 31, was 7-6 with a 4.36 ERA in 39 games for the Brewers, which included 18 starts. He earned $3,365,500 million this year and is arbitration eligible.
If the Jays open with a rotation of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman and Happ, with Aaron Sanchez pitching out of the bullpen, Estrada moves to the head of the line as the first option as a sixth starter.
In his seventh season, the first two with the Washington National and the last five with Milwaukee, Estrada made 71 career starts averaging more than 20 the previous three seasons (23 in 2012, 21 the next season and 18 this year). He did lead the National League in home runs allowed (29).
Against the American League East, Estrada was 0-3 in six career games -- relief appearances save for one start against the Boston Red Sox and one against the Jays -- with a 4.03 ERA. He walked 10 and struck out 15 in 22 1/3 innings. He is 23-26 with a 4.23 in seven seasons with Washington and Milwaukee.
Estrada was a sixth-round pick of the Nationals scouting director Dana Brown, now one of Anthopoulos’ top evaluators, in 2005, the same round which produced Doug Fister and Lance Lynn. The Jays drafted catcher Josh Bell out of Auburn and he was out of the game after playing the 2007 season at class-A Lansing.
Lind hit .354 against right-handers and barely hit (.061) against lefties, despite playing 17 games with a broken bone in his foot from a foul ball. Those numbers under hitting coach Kevin Seizter saw his power drop, but his average climb. Lind is a career .293 hitter against right-handers and owns a .212 mark against left-handers.
“Adam brings us a productive left-handed bat at a position of need with the ability to hit in the middle of the order,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said in a statement.
Brewers first basemen hit .206 with a .549 OPS in 2013 and this year .206 with a .643 OPS, but Miller Park is more condusive to left-handed hitters.
Anthopoulos, assistant GMs Tony LaCava, Andrew Tinnish and the other executives made the decisions on Lind, Happ, Thole, Dickey’s personal catcher and the non tenders.
Morrow receives a $1 million buyout rather than his $10 million salary, Santos gets a $750,000 buyout instead $6 million and McGowan will be paid a $500,000 rather than a $4 million salary.
Anthopoulos said he’d welcome Morrow back as a reliever, but he was aware the former first rounder wanted a chance to start and the Jays “don’t have a spot in the rotation for him.”
Scheduled to earn $3.65 million on the deal he had signed, Smoak, gets a $150,000 buyout.
The Jays extended a $15.3 million qualifying offer to free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, who has until Nov. 10 to accept. If Cabrera signs with another club, Toronto receive a pick in the June draft.
Lind was drafted out of South Alabama in 2004, played 954 games, married here, live here and now is switching cities and leagues.
Incoming RHP Marco Estrada 7-6, 4.36 ERA, 18 starts, 21 relief appearances with Milwaukee, $3,365,500 US. Arbitration eligible for 2015 LHP JA Happ 11-11, 4.22 ERA, 26 starts 4 relief appearances, 51 walks, 133 strikeouts in 158 innings, $6.7 million picked up C Josh Thole .248 Avg, 0 HRs, 7 RBIs, .598 OPS, $1.75 million option picked up
Gone RP Dustin McGowan 5-3, 4.17 ERA, 8 starts, 45 relief appearances, 33 walks, 61 Ks in 82 IP, $500,000 buyout rather than a $4 million salary RHP Brandon Morrow 1-3, 5.67 ERA, 6 starts, 7 relief appearances, 18 walks, 30 Ks in 33.1 IP, $1 million buyout rather than a $10 million RP Sergio Santos 0-3, 8.57 ERA, 26 relief appearances, 18 walks, 29 Ks in 21 IP, $750,000 buyout instead $6 million salary.
1B Justin Smoak .202 Avg. 7 HRs, 30 RBIs in 80 games, .614 OPS, $150,000 buyout rather $3.65 million option
-- Follow Bob Elliott on Twitter @elliottbaseball