The Blue Jays want to be aggressive in free agency, but they will regret rushing to lock up Robbie Ray before other teams got involved.
MLB free agency is going to be weird. The Blue Jays enter the market as one of only a handful of teams who are expected to spend significant cash. That’s what makes their choice to rush to sign Robbie Ray to a one-year deal so perplexing.
The good news for Toronto fans is that it’s only a one-year deal. The bad news is that the Jays will pay Ray $8 million to be a member of their starting rotation next season. That’s a lot of cash for a pitcher who finished the 2020 season with a 6.62 ERA.
The Blue Jays organization should know exactly what they’re getting with Ray. He did make five appearances for them down the stretch last season after arriving via trade from the Diamondbacks. His performance in Toronto was superior to what he managed in Arizona. Ray threw 20.2 innings after making the move and pitched to a more respectable ERA of 4.79 during that small sample size.
The Blue Jays front office hopes he can be even better in 2021. Ray does have a live arm that allows him to flash plus stuff when his mechanics are in perfect working order. The problem is that his command doesn’t often allow him to take advantage of his full arsenal of pitches. Poor control also contributed heavily to his struggles in 2020.
The question of whether or not Ray can bounce back next season is open to debate. There is a reasonable chance that he can pitch better. Even if he does, the Blue Jays deserve to be criticized for failing to maximize their power in this bizarre free agent market.
There was no reason for Toronto to rush to make Ray the first significant free agent signing of the season. He was going to draw interest from numerous teams around MLB, but the Blue Jays have more spending power than almost every one of their competitors.
Simply put, there will be more available talent than teams willing to spend on it this offseason. The better values in free agency are going to come much closer to the start of the regular season. Moving early in this market should only be done to lock up elite players. If Toronto moved quickly to sign Trevor Bauer then mildly overpaying for his services would have been justified. The team’s decision to rush to sign a guy who will struggle to even perform as an average starter is hard to understand.
In the end, look for the Blue Jays to continue to spend big and cover up the Ray signing with several more high-profile moves. It won’t change the reality that they’ve spent more than they needed to on a mediocre starting pitcher. Toronto’s started free agency by going 0 for 1.