On November 7th, the Toronto Blue Jays and left handed pitcher Robbie Ray agreed to a one year deal worth $8 million to keep Ray in a Blue Jays uniform for the 2021 season. Ray, who the Blue Jays acquired at the 2020 trade deadline along with cash considerations from the Diamondbacks had a tough 2020 season posting a 6.62 ERA, 6.50 FIP, 5.84 xFIP, and 5.49 SIERA across 51.2 innings. Although Ray was able to strike out batters at a 27.1% clip (3.7% above league average in 2020), he gave up both walks (17.9%) and homers (2.26/9 innings) at the highest and second highest clips respectively amongst all pitchers to pitch at least 50.0 innings in 2020. It is however important to note that with the Blue Jays, Ray saw better results as he pitched to a 4.79 ERA, 5.32 FIP, 4.95 xFIP, and 4.96 SIERA across 20.2 innings. In addition, Ray’s K-BB% increased by 3.8% and his HR/9 decreased by 0.87.
Before his nightmare 2020 season, Ray was able to pitch to a 3.96 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 3.68 xFIP, and 3.80 SIERA across 762.0 innings in a Diamondbacks uniform from 2015-2019. I’d assume that Ray’s past track record and improved results with the Blue Jays in 2020 convinced the organization enough to take a flyer on him which appears to be a low risk/high reward signing.
If the Blue Jays stand pat in terms of their starting pitchers entering the 2021 season, it appears Ray will join four of Hyun Jin Ryu, Nate Pearson, Tanner Roark, Trent Thornton, or Ross Stripling in the starting rotation. However, if the Blue Jays land another starter or two, there is a small chance Ray could be used out of the bullpen. Given Pearson’s limited track record and the question marks regarding Ray, Roark, Thornton, and Stripling; it is probably likely that the team will pursue some more starting pitchers.
Overall, I’d give the Blue Jays a B+ for the signing of Robbie Ray. If Ray is able to return to his 2015-2019 form, the Blue Jays got an absolute steal. Ray would become the number 2 or 3 starter behind Ryu and a potential starting pitcher addition which would be a huge help for the Blue Jays pitching staff as a whole as well as the team’s success. On the other hand, if Ray isn’t able to recapture his success, the Blue Jays could just let him walk at the seasons’ end. Although I like that the Blue Jays signed Ray to a one year deal, I’m a little surprised they are set to pay him $8 million, especially considering the current state of how the free agent market is expected to look. Nonetheless, this was a great low risk/high reward signing for the Blue Jays.