The Seattle Mariners are reportedly nearing a deal with American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, as first reported by MetsMerized’s Michael Mayer. CBS Sports HQ’s Jim Bowden confirms that Ray’s contract will cover five years and be worth $115 million, with an opt out after the third season.
Ray, a left-hander who celebrated his 30th birthday in October, authored an impeccable 2021 season. In 32 starts with the Toronto Blue Jays, he amassed a 2.84 ERA (154 ERA+) and a 4.77 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He entered the offseason ranked by CBS Sports as the sixth-best free agent on the market. Here’s what we wrote at the time:
Ray just authored one of the most impressive turnaround stories in recent memory. He was abysmal in 2020 after altering his arm action, walking nearly a batter per inning and looking far more hittable than someone with his caliber of stuff should. He rebounded by upping his fastball usage rate and by challenging batters in the zone more, be it over the middle or on the inner half. Gosh, did that work out well. His lack of a track record makes him a pure risk-reward signing: the risk is that he might not be this good again; the reward is that, if he is, he’s going to provide oodles of surplus value on the contract he signs this winter.
Ray is the first premium free-agent signing the Mariners have made since inking Robinson Canó prior to the 2014 season. Seattle is coming off a surprisingly good 90-72 effort that had them in playoff contention until the final day of the regular season. The Mariners have not made the postseason since 2001.
Ray will front a rotation that includes Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen, and Logan Gilbert. The Mariners have a number of talented young starters nearing the majors, too, including Matt Brash, George Kirby, and Emerson Hancock. Factor in some of their young hitters — outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez — as well as the state of the division (the Astros are likely to lose Carlos Correa; the Athletics are set to dismantle their core; and so on) and clearly the Mariners see an opportunity.
The Blue Jays recently signed Kevin Gausman, a move that suggested they would be moving on from Ray.