I started writing this article in the middle of Sunday’s game after Ray walked the first batter and gave up a double in the top of the second. What did Ray do? Well, he said “screw this” and struck out the next three batters.
All told, Ray pitched seven innings, allowing two earned runs (one should not have been earned), struck out six and walked two. While he left in line for the loss, Ray pitched like an ace with no run support. He left the game with an ERA of 3.36.
That is an ace. Robbie Ray is an ace.
If you’re reading this article, you watch the Jays and know how good Robbie Ray is. You know that the Jays traded Travis “F’ing” Bergen for Robbie Ray and later got Bergen back. You know that Robbie Ray was the first free agent to sign. You know that Robbie Ray has been the Blue Jays’ best pitcher this year.
Instead, I want to focus on what a potential extension looks like and what happens if they don’t re-sign him, which would be one of the worst moves this front office could ever make.
Ray is a 29-year-old who will be a free agent this off-season. Coming into the Sunday game, Ray possesses an ERA of 3.43 ERA and an xFIP of 3.10. Long story short, Ray’s xFIP is so low because the amount of home runs he gives up is inflated. I’ll use a few comparisons of pitchers around his age who have nearly the same stats as Robbie Ray.
Dallas Keuchel signed a 3 year, 55.5 million dollar contract in the 2020 off-season when he was 31-years-old. Keuchel’s annual average salary is 18.5 million with a vesting option depending on innings pitched in 2021 and 2022.
In 2019, Keuchel’s ERA was 3.75 and he had an xFIP of 4.06. Furthermore, Keuchel is not the strikeout machine that Robbie Ray is. In 2019, Keuchel had a K/9 of 7.27 while Robbie Ray’s is almost hovering near 11 K/9. In today’s day and age, a pitcher that strikes out batters at a high rate is more valued as it nulls any chances for errors.
Dallas Keuchel’s 18.5 million a year is the lowest I could see Ray making. Patrick Corbin’s 23,333,333 million per year is the high end of what Robbie Ray could make. In the 2019 off-season, Corbin, who was 29 at the time, signed a 6 year, 140 million dollar contract after pitching like an ace.
In 2018, Corbin posted an ERA of 3.15 with an xFIP of 2.61. He and Ray are also very similar as in their contract year, they have posted K/9 of over 11. Those are ace numbers, and while Corbin hasn’t had great seasons since 2019, he deserved that contract due to his 2018 season.
After an okay 2019 season where he posted a 3.96 ERA and an xFIP of 3.81, the 30-year-old Zack Wheeler left the Mets for the Phillies signing a 5 year, 118 million contract for an average salary of 23.6 million a year. Wheeler was a successful pitcher in his time with the Mets. In his age 23 season in 2013, he had an ERA of 3.42 in 100 IP. The next season he followed that up with an ERA of 3.54. He struggled in 2017, but followed that year up with his best season as a Met, posting a 3.31 ERA and a 3.81 xFIP.
While his numbers in 2019 weren’t fantastic, this contract was based on previous success.
So, what about Ray…?
When Robbie Ray signs his next contract, he’ll be 30-years-old. If he continues his fantastic season, which I believe he will, Ray will make anywhere from 17 million to 24 million over three to five years. It’s not that Ray is a shock either. In 2017, he had an ERA of 2.89 and had votes for the Cy Young award. He followed that season up in 2018 with an ERA of 3.93, regression, but still very good. Even in 2019 where he posted a 4.34 ERA, you could say that was a fairly successful season. It was 2020 when he totally lost his command and imploded, and then he fixed himself up working with Pete Walker after being traded to the Blue Jays.
His low ERA isn’t a shock as he made improvements to his BB/9 numbers. His K/9 is what general managers look for. He also throws very hard with a fantastic slider, meaning that he legitimately has ace stuff.
Using the comparables above, if I were made the general manager of the Blue Jays, I would sign him to a four-year contract for something around $21 million per year. Fun fact, he would have a higher average annual salary than Hyun Jin Ryu.
There’s another scenario in which the Blue Jays could fall out of the race by the end of July and opt to trade Ray to a contender. Given the way the team is going, that seems very, very unlikely, so, really, the only other option here is Ray getting qualified and walking in free agency. The Jays would then be entitled to a top 100 pick in the 2022 draft as compensation.
This is obviously the worst-case scenario and ideally doesn’t happen.
Robbie Ray is an ace. Everyone reading this article knows that. Not only has Ray shown it before, but he’s been successful as he’s significantly dropped his walk rate which has allowed his ace stuff to shine. In my mind, if you want to be a contender year after year, you have to re-sign assets that make you successful, including your ace. Ray is that ace.
As always, follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. If you disagree with me, you can argue with me as I tend to always answer people’s opposing views.