Robbie Ray, Blue Jays Reportedly Agree to 1-Year, $8M Contract

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2020

Toronto Blue Jays' Robbie Ray pitches to the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning of Game 1 of a wild card series playoff baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Veteran pitcher Robbie Ray has reportedly agreed to a free-agent deal to return to the Toronto Blue Jays next season.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, Ray and the Jays came to terms on a one-year, $8 million contract, marking the first free-agent signing for any team this offseason.

The Blue Jays acquired Ray from the Arizona Diamondbacks in August, and he went on to make five appearances (four starts) for Toronto during the regular season.

After struggling mightily to the tune of a 7.84 ERA in seven starts for the D-Backs last season, Ray was much better in Toronto. Over 20.2 innings, he went 1-1 with a 4.79 ERA and 25 strikeouts.

Ray also made one appearance during the Blue Jays' American League Wild Card Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, going 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA.

It wasn't long ago that Ray seemed to be among the fastest-rising stars in Major League Baseball. In 2017, he broke out by going 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 218 strikeouts in 162 innings. Ray was named an All-Star for the first time and finished seventh in the NL Cy Young award voting.

Ray dropped off in subsequent years, but he was still solid in 2018 and 2019. Ray went 6-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 2018 and 12-8 with a 4.34 ERA in 2019. He also continued to strike out batters at a high rate.

The 29-year-old lefty's best attribute is undoubtedly his swing-and-miss stuff. He owns a career strikeout rate of 11.1 per nine innings, and if he can harness that better in Toronto next season, he could be one of the top bounce-back candidates in baseball.

The signing of Ray may be the first of many moves for Toronto, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Saturday that rival executives believe the Jays will be "as aggressive this winter in free agency as any team in MLB."

Toronto benefited last season from the expansion of the playoff field. As a result, the Jays reached the postseason for the first time since 2016 despite finishing seventh in the league. 

Signing Ray is a solid move for rotation depth, as Ray will remain part of a staff anchored by 2020 American League Cy Young finalist Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The Blue Jays also have several young, talented hitters—including Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio—making them a trendy pick to take a big step forward in 2021 and beyond.