TORONTO — The pending contracts without cost brokers Kevin Gausman and Robbie Ray are comparable sufficient that an intriguing query is whether or not the Toronto Blue Jays most popular including the previous fairly than re-signing the latter.
Actually, there’s simply sufficient variance within the two offers to distinguish them. The best-hander, untethered to a qualifying provide, accepted $110 million over 5 years to move north whereas the reigning AL Cy Younger Award winner, tied to draft-pick compensation, agreed to $115 million over 5 years with an decide out after the third yr.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 29, 2021
The delicate distinctions aren’t insignificant.
It’s potential the Blue Jays regarded on the decide out — one thing this entrance workplace hadn’t handed out earlier than Jose Berrios obtained one as a part of his $131-million, seven-year extension — and the additional draft decide they’d obtain if Ray left and determined Gausman was the higher play.
But when their conviction was to retain the ace lefty whose profession they helped revive, these elements couldn’t have been deal-breakers.
So, maybe they’ve extra religion in Gausman’s capability to ship over the following 5 years, or perhaps he obtained to sure first and the Blue Jays took the fowl in hand. Or it may very well be that Ray most popular the Pacific Northwest to the Nice White North, forcing a pivot.
Keep in mind, the choice finally belongs to the participant irrespective of how laborious the Blue Jays might twist an arm, as normal supervisor Ross Atkins famous again on the GM Conferences earlier this month.
“We’re very respectful of them attending to free company and incomes the appropriate to discover that market,” Atkins stated of the membership’s method with Ray, Marcus Semien and Steven Matz. “A lot of it’s not essentially following their lead, however being respectful of them eager to take a while to do this. What we are able to do is simply continually talk with their illustration and keep involved persistently to know the potential of needing to go one other course whereas we preserve them as choices.”
The Blue Jays paid Marcus Semien ($18m), Robbie Ray ($8m) and Steven Matz ($5.2m) a complete of $31.2m final season. As FAs, they signed contracts value a mixed $334m.
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Gausman could also be a distinct course, however he’s no dramatic shift, as the actual fact their offers are so comparable suggests the trade values them in practically the identical method.
Each pitch in comparable fashions, too, pounding the strike zone with fastballs and complementing the warmth with an elite secondary pitch — a slider for Ray and a mesmerizing splitter for Gausman that colleague Arden Zwelling breaks down so properly right here.
Notable is that the Blue Jays appear to have a factor for splitters, a pitch not terribly frequent.
In addition they tried to signal Gausman final low season, in fact, however in addition they added the splitter-reliant Kirby Yates earlier than he blew out within the spring, and two winters in the past gambled on Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi, hoping his splitter would enable him to transition to the majors.
Unsurprising then is that they’ve circled again to Yusei Kikuchi and are among the many groups in on the left-hander, based on MLB Community’s Jon Heyman.
Jays are amongst groups in on Yusei Kikuchi. Pitching market is obvs very robust.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 29, 2021
The Blue Jays had curiosity in Kikuchi earlier than he signed with the Mariners previous to the 2019 season, and he’s exactly the kind of delicate tinker job to place earlier than arm-whispering pitching coach Pete Walker.
Opponents final yr batted simply .176 and slugged .282 in opposition to a splitter that produced a 39.6 whiff fee. Nevertheless it was his least-used pitch, thrown 627 occasions fewer than his worst providing, a mediocre cutter that batters hit .276 and slugged .476 in opposition to, underperforming the anticipated numbers off the pitch.
Kikuchi’s whiff charges on each his fastball (30.3) and slider (31.2) are encouraging sufficient to imagine that some utilization adjustments may generate much better outcomes, akin to the tweaks that helped straighten out Matz.
One other starter in that tier of the market appears to be a aim for the Blue Jays, who to this point this low season pursued to various levels each elite starters (Ray, Justin Verlander, Noah Syndergaard and Gausman) and middle-tier/rebound play arms (Matz, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wooden, Andrew Heaney).
Procuring in such a sample aligns with how Atkins described his order of operations earlier this month, an outline that’s instructive when attempting to determine what comes subsequent.
“You begin with a really perfect and take steps in direction of that ultimate final result and then you definately get reactions,” he stated. “It has, not less than for me, by no means gone the best method from the 1st step. You all the time have to regulate primarily based on curiosity, primarily based on seeing values otherwise. However that is a giant a part of the time right here now (on the GM conferences) the place you actually begin to have prolonged exchanges.”
Apply the identical methodology to the membership’s pursuit of an infielder, “an space that we’d be enthusiastic about including a participant,” Atkins stated. The best would have been bringing again Semien, given his affect on the membership throughout an MVP finalist marketing campaign, or convincing Corey Seager to maneuver over to 3rd base (the Texas Rangers’ willingness to offer him $325 million over 10 years shortly eradicated that dream).
Now, Atkins and firm transfer down their checklist of potentialities, which incorporates Javier Baez in a brilliant utility position. The edges have held some talks and whereas that doesn’t imply something is imminent, they’ll stay engaged with all their potential targets in pursuit of an eventual match.
That’s how they landed Semien final yr, as they initially chased D.J. LeMahieu, misplaced out when he rejoined the New York Yankees, after which landed the slugger when he selected them because the place to rebuild his worth.
The Blue Jays have further cache as a soft-landing spot after paying $31.2 million mixed final season for Semien, Ray and Matz, who parlayed these one-year commitments into contracts value a complete of $334 million.
Figuring out pillow-contract gamers is one strategy to recreate a few of that misplaced monetary effectivity, whereas one other is making a commerce for a participant performing past his contract (Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez, as an example, was a goal for them on the deadline in July). Up to now, Atkins has made just one substantial prospect subtraction commerce – sending Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson to the Minnesota Twins for Berrios – and this will very properly be the time for one more.
As he stated again in Carlsbad, “I would favor to simply spend cash, however that is not limitless, proper?”
It’s not, even amid the present bonkers spending spree overtaking the game, one made all of the jarring when juxtaposed in opposition to the looming lockout. Therefore, the low season could also be on the verge of lockout-induced freeze, however for the Blue Jays, it’s in some ways nonetheless simply getting going.