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Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada walks back to the dugout after being taken out of the game during the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto, on Aug. 15, 2017.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

It is a strange space Marco Estrada inhabits these days: baseball's equivalent to a Catch-22.

The 34-year-old is a free agent at the end of this season and has stated unequivocally that he wants to remain a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

But the better he pitches over the remainder of the month, the more interest he will garner on the trade market for a team looking for that little extra push to get them into the postseason and beyond.

Major League Baseball teams with a more realistic playoff shot than the Blue Jays might be willing to relinquish a nice return package to Toronto in exchange for an experienced arm.

Heading into Tuesday's start against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre, Estrada had been nothing short of sensational in his previous three outings. He has gone seven innings in each of those starts with a sparkling 1.71 earned run average, smothering the opposition bats to a .184 average.

Those are good pretty good numbers to hitch to your playoff wagon.

Estrada's run of good fortune took a decided downturn on Tuesday night, however, as the Rays (60-61) rediscovered their long-lost offence to subdue the Blue Jays (57-62) 6-4 to knot the four-game series at 1-1.

Estrada was definitely off, getting roughed up for six runs off 10 hits over just 4.1 innings of work to absorb the loss and drop to 5-8 on the year.

He gave up two home runs – a two-run shot off the bat off Lucas Duda in the third inning and a solo number to Wilson Ramos in the fourth – as Toronto's three-game win streak came to an abrupt end.

Estrada also walked four batters, two of those in the fifth inning with the bases loaded that forced in two more of the Tampa runs that made the score 6-1.

The Rays had gone 11 games without scoring that many runs, getting shut out five times in the process.

Despite his struggles, Estrada has established his bona fides as a good MLB starter that any team in a playoff push would want in their rotation.

According to Toronto manager John Gibbons, that would include the Blue Jays, which started the day 3.5 games out of the American League wildcard playoff race with a bevy of other teams also in the mix.

If the manager has a say in such things – which he usually doesn't – Estrada isn't going anywhere.

"Nothing's going to happen," Gibbons said. "We need him. My gut tells me nothing's going to happen, or maybe my inside information tells me."

With the non-waiver trade deadline having come and gone on July 31st, this is the time of year where teams can still work out trades. Only players have to clear waivers first, which makes it much more difficult for a team to work something out with a willing dance partner.

At this time of year, teams will put most of their players on waivers, which are recallable, just a sort of fishing expedition to see what kind of interest somebody might have on the market.

And so it was on Tuesday for Estrada when Twitter went all agog after it was reported that Estrada had been claimed by an "unknown" team on recallable waivers.

If the rumours are true, and the Blue Jays can't work out a trade to their liking over the next couple of days, they simply reel Estrada back in off the waiver wire. No harm, no gain.

Gibbons plainly let his feelings be known on the matter.

"I'd keep him," he said. "I'd definitely keep him."

Toronto third-baseman Josh Donaldson continues to rumble, showing definite signs that if Toronto is going to make a serious playoff push over the final six weeks of the regular season, his bat will play a large role.

Donaldson crunched home run No. 18 of the season off Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell, his third in as many games and ninth in his last 17.

It was a three-run shot that cut Tampa Bay's lead to 6-4.

Snell got the win, allowing four Toronto runs off seven hits to record his first win of the season.

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