After reports came out that Robbie Ray was closing in on a five-year, $115 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, a friend of mine who's a big Mariners fan sent me a text that suggested president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto is "like one of those dudes in an auction draft who gets outbid on all the big talent and then panics and overspends on average players so he can say he did something."
"Average"? Wow, talk about a lack of respect for the reigning American League Cy Young winner.
But I understand the sentiment. Ray, 30, is arguably the most difficult of the top 10 free agents to project into the future. Was his 2021 campaign -- when he led the AL in ERA, innings, strikeouts and WHIP -- a true breakout season? Will he return to his seasons of inconsistent control? Worse, will he pitch like he did in 2020, when he posted a 6.62 ERA?
There is a high degree of risk here, but you can say that about just about any pitcher. Did you like Kevin Gausman, who signed for five years and $110 million, a little more? Remember that he had a 4.48 ERA in the second half of 2021. Would you have preferred Max Scherzer? Well, sure, but the future Hall of Famer is 37, and he cost the Mets more for three years than Ray will cost the Mariners for five (they do both have opt-outs -- Scherzer after two seasons, Ray after three).