Robbie Ray has always been a topic of debate for Mariners fans. Some expected to get the CY Young winner, expecting an ERA under 3, a K rate over 12, and an actual front of the rotation Ace. Robbie Ray was never that pitcher and the Mariners didn't sign him to a contract reflective of that. At 5YR/$115M, it was more indicative of a backend 1 or top of the line 2.
The first year had its ups and downs, but Robbie Ray still put together a darn good year. He had some rough outings early but finished the regular season on a high note. In his last 20 starts, he had an ERA of just 2.97. The boneheaded move in the playoffs by Servais put a bad taste in everyone's mouth, but that's not on Ray.
Heading into 2023, I was hopeful for a good season from Ray. Something in the range of a 3.40 ERA with a lot of strikeouts. Shoot, it was possible he could lead the league. Just 3.1 IP into the season and that hope was dashed. Originally a 4-6 week injury, Robbie Ray is now done for the year. With surgery done to repair his flexor tendon and Ulnar Collateral ligament (Tommy John), Ray is going to be out for quite a while.
When can the Mariners expect to see Robbie Ray back in the rotation?
Usually, recovery from Tommy John takes around 14-16 months. This means that we aren't going to be seeing Ray anywhere near Spring Training next season. Instead, the likely best case, and most realistic, scenario is to see Ray target next year's All-Star game as a point to return by. That would put him at around 14 months and would give the Mariners a good idea of how to treat the rotation as the potential for playoffs approaches.
There is something else to be aware of, and it relates to his contract. Ray signed a 5/115, as mentioned earlier, but there was an out after the first 3 seasons if he was so inclined to take it. I don't see him taking that out now, as it's unlikely anyone would give a 33-year-old coming off of Tommy John more than the $50M guaranteed that would be left on his deal from walking away.
Luckily, the Mariners do have internal options that they can try and use to supplement Ray's departure. We already saw Bryce Miller and Easton McGee dominate in their debuts. Berroa, Hancock, Dollard, and Woo (amongst others) are all chomping at the bit for their own shot as well.
It's going to be a while before we see Robbie Ray again. If things go well, hopefully, we see him in July 2024. Best of luck on the recovery Robbie!