Yesterday, it was announced that the Toronto Blue Jays were in agreement with starting pitcher Kevin Gausman to bolster their starting rotation, after extending Jose Berrios earlier this offseason.
With around $250 million spent on starting pitching, it is looking increasingly unlikely that the Blue Jays will be able to re-sign reigning AL Cy Young winner, Robbie Ray.
Comparing Gausman to Ray
When looking at Gausman and Ray, one can"t help but notice the similarities between the two pitchers. Both are 30 years old, were originally drafted in 2010 (although Gausman wouldn"t sign), and bounced a bit around the league before finding recent success. Gausman started as an Oriole, but Baltimore gave up on the righty in 2018. After being released by both the Braves and Reds, Gausman would sign a 1-year/$9 million contract with the Giants for the 2020 season before accepting a qualifying offer for 2021.
Meanwhile, Ray bounced around a bit at the beginning of his career before finding a home with the Diamondbacks. After some mixed success, Arizona sent him to Toronto in 2020 for Travis Bergen, who the team cut after the season. Ray and Toronto would agree to a 1-year/$8 million contract extension for the 2021 season.
This year, both pitchers were among the best in baseball. Gausman pitched to a 2.81 ERA and 3.42 SIERA for the Giants while Robbie Ray won the AL Cy Young award when he pitched to a 2.84 ERA and 3.21 SIERA with the Blue Jays.
The first notable difference this offseason between the two Aces was the speed of which their respective markets developed. Gausman was connected early with multiple teams, including the Rangers, Mets, and Yankees. Meanwhile, it appears that Ray is content to wait until after the lockout before deciding which team to join.
The expiration of the CBA appears to be factoring into these decisions. With a lockout looming (starting in just a couple of days) it appears that Gausman opted for the stability of having guaranteed money in hand, while Ray is willing to risk waiting in hopes of earning a bigger contract as the free-agent market develops.
Draft Pick Compensation
One interesting factor is the draft pick compensation tied to Robbie Ray. Since Gausman had already been given a Qualifying Offer, he was unable to be QO"d this offseason. As a result, the Blue Jays do not have to surrender a draft pick for the signing. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays will receive a draft pick for Ray. Toronto has built a strong minor league system in recent years and it could be that the Blue Jays saw this as an opportunity to keep a star pitcher and gain an additional draft pick.
Regardless or the reasons, the Blue Jays decided to go with the unknown Gausman over the known Ray. While the team could still sign Ray, it has become increasingly likely that Ray will be pitching in a new uniform next season.
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