For a long time, I’ve been a big supporter of Robbie Ray. Back in the day, I even picked him to win the Cy Young a couple of times. He had a big-time scare after being hit in the head with a ball, and after figuring out some control issues in Arizona, he has emerged as that Cy Young candidate many others (not just me) thought that he could be.
Ray bet on himself, signing a one-year deal with the Blue Jays last offseason. It was an $8 million dollar deal, with some very small incentives included in it.
Few players will cash in by betting on themselves more than Robbie Ray.
Ray is a massive favorite to win the Cy Young this season and has a massive payday lined up. He turned 30 at the start of October, which leads me to think he has a lot of mileage left on his arm. A long-term deal is likely going to be his goal, rightfully so.
In come the Mariners. They are one of the youngest teams in baseball (7th youngest) and have a boatload of prospects that should be arriving in the next couple of years that will keep the team young. They also have one of the smallest payrolls in all of baseball, the 7th smallest with just $64 million on the books for 2021, and better yet, if Seager does end up leaving, they will have just $33 million on the books.
Spending big on a young free-agent pitcher like Robbie Ray seems like a great use of some of that available money. I call it available after the news came out that Dipoto wants to be aggressive and actually spend substantial money.
Ray would be an awesome signing. How long and how much would the Mariners have to offer in order to get him to come here?
There’s always a couple of things I check for when looking at potential free agents. Need, Want, Age, and similar deals. We’ve covered those first three. The Mariners Want and Need an Ace, Ray Wants money, and he’s only 30. That leaves the last one. What sort of similar deals have been signed over the last couple of years?
Trevor Bauer got 3-102. That’s not going to happen. Ray doesn’t quite have that track record on the field to earn that much. So let’s look a bit lower. You know what… it doesn’t take long to find a good comparison.
Heading into the 2020 season, the Phillies decided that they were going to sign away a division rivals stud pitcher, and gave Zach Wheeler a 5-year deal worth $118 million. Just shy of $24 per year. To me, that seems like it could be right in line with what Ray will end up receiving this offseason.
I did find a couple more similar contracts that I could see by AAV, with Ryu signing a 4-$80, Corbin signing a 6-$140 (remember when he was good?), and Darvish with his 6-$126. Ray definitely seems like the next guy to receive in the lower 20’s per season.
In fact, I think it’s gonna be really close to that Wheeler deal. AAV goes up every year, as it should. That’s why I think the Mariners should offer somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-$125 for Ray, with some escalators added in, as well as a 6th-year option with a buyout attached. Something around $30 for that extra year, but an $8-$10 buyout if the team doesn’t want him.
Is it a lot of money? Giving Ray $25 million a year would make him the 11th highest-paid pitcher in baseball, by AAV. It would still be a big gap to Sale, who sits in 10th at $30 million per year. Adding in that 6th year would actually bump it all the way to the 6th largest contract for a starting pitcher, just ahead of Sale. Yeah, it would be devoting a big chunk to a player. Guess what? It’s exactly what the Mariners should do.
They need a true Ace in their rotation. Marco is good, so is Flexen. It’s too early to tell what we have with Gilbert, or any of the minor league guys, no matter how good they look (but jeez are Brash and Stoudt fun). Ray would take pressure off a lot of the other pitchers, and solidify the rotation.
If the Mariners are serious about contending next season, spending big, and being aggressive, then Robbie Ray is the perfect target. If it was up to me, he would be the first pitcher I talk to this offseason about signing a deal to become a Seattle Mariners Ace.