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LL Roundtable: Robbie Ray Edition

The last time the Huskies hired a mid-major college football coach from the Mountain West, the Mariners signed Robinson Canó. Does that mean Robbie Ray will one day be traded for Jarred Kelenic?

Toronto Blue Jays v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Jerry Dipoto’s biggest Mariners free agent acquisition is here, and he’s beautiful. We’ve already covered Robby Ray’s signing with the Mariners in a few different ways:

We even have an emergency podcast dropping pretty soon. But given that this might be the last transaction the M’s make before the impending lockout, we thought we’d really drive this into the ground and share a few more thoughts.

Initial thoughts?

Grant: Hard not to be excited. Ray is the reigning AL Cy Young winner and, somehow, MLB’s all-time K/9 leader (minimum 1000 IP). He immediately slots in at the top of the Mariners’ rotation and significantly raises the team’s ceiling. Jerry Dipoto talked a big game about free agency, and with this move he’s delivered — at least, for now.

Kate: Ray wasn’t even on my radar, honestly, I thought it was just a fait accompli that he’d return to Toronto, where he seemed equally beloved by teammates and the city. I literally could not care less about how much money a player gets, but the price tag was also way lower than I expected, too, so I’m excited the Mariners were able to creatively structure a deal with the no-trade and opt-out after just three years that allows Ray to bet on himself while providing him some stability throughout the contract. But then again, I have commitment issues, so a three-year opt-out is something I would demand as a player, too.

John: GLEE. What better way to both upgrade your roster and signify to your team and other hesitant free agents that you’re serious about contention than reeling in the reigning Cy Young winner? Seattle needed multiple adds to their rotation for a stable base and they’ve made an upside move that buys them significant leeway.

Eric: Yeah, it’s hard not to be excited about the Mariners acquiring the best, established pitcher they’ve snagged since Cliff Lee or Hisashi Iwakuma. Adding a pitcher like Ray to the rotation raises the water level pretty significantly, and if Dipoto can add even just one more affordable, mid-level starter, then that starting rotation is looking better than it has in many, many seasons.

Would you rather have had Robbie Ray or Kevin Gausman given their similar contracts (5/$110m for Gausman vs. 5/$115m with an opt-out after year 3 for Ray)?

Anders: I think they’re pretty similar for me, but I had never even considered Robbie Ray to be a possibility and thus had never entered him into my mental rankings. I’m going to be a homer and guess that Ray is worth more WAR over the course of his contract than Gausman will be, though.

Grant: The two project very similarly: Steamer pegs Gausman for a 3.77 FIP and Ray for 3.76. Both have thrived thanks to recent mechanical changes, but given that Ray is a year younger (technically nine months, but in baseball terms it’s a year), I’ll take him. Regardless, it’s a great sign that Dipoto was able to move so quickly on Ray after Gausman signed.

John: It’s close to a toss-up but I’d lean Ray. The age gap makes up a lot of the difference, as does Ray’s durability and, 2020 notwithstanding, his ability to be a strong rotation arm for most of his career even through his erratic stages.

Kate: I’m just...perplexed? About why the Blue Jays wanted to chase after Gausman instead of prioritizing Ray, who they had in-house and was literally the reigning AL Cy Young winner. People forget this! Some people have interpreted Toronto’s prioritizing of Gausman as a ding on Ray, but I really trust the Mariners’ pitching analytics and development, especially on a fastball-slider pitcher like Ray (as opposed to Gausman and the splitter). Gausman commands the zone better currently, but I’d prefer the strikeout upside of Ray, especially if the Mariners can help tweak a couple things in his pitch shaping to keep it landing in the zone without getting hit quite so hard when batters do make contact with his pitches.

How does this shape the rest of the offseason?

Anders: It definitely takes some weight off of the pressure that I personally was feeling. It’s good to hear they’re not done, and it’s worth remembering that most of the AAV of this deal was available because Yusei Kikuchi declined his option. In that sense, they should still be able to land an impact bat. Let’s roll, baby.

Kate: Still lots of money to spend for the Mariners and lots of free agents left, although not as many as when the weekend started. More bats please, and more minimal prospect-cost trades.

John: As I noted, my hope is this signifies to the rest of the free agent class that Seattle is endeavoring to walk the walk. Two or three more moves are necessary at least, but this is where we should be.

Eric: Bats, bats, and more bats. Sign all the bats, Jerry. Okay, and maybe one or two more pitchers, but GIVE ME THE BATS(men).

How would you judge Jerry Dipoto if Ray ends up being the biggest name acquired? Second-biggest?

Anders: If this was it, I think I’d be mildly disappointed. I think it’s hard to say I’d be completely disappointed since he’s a freaking Cy Young winner, but if they stopped after this I’d give them like a D or C- for the offseason. If they get Story or Bryant I would immediately move it up into B- or B territory. Make another signing or acquisition on top of that and we’re getting a pretty great winter outcome.

Grant: If Robbie Ray is the move of the offseason, unless there’s a whole bunch of B-tier acquisitions (Seiya Suzuki, Chris Taylor, etc.), I’ll definitely be disappointed. But if Ray comes along with Trevor Story, Kris Bryant, or even Carlos Correa (wishful thinking, I know), I’ll feel like Dipoto has followed through on what was promised.

Kate: This team’s inability to hit was the thing that sunk them last year, and they started this off-season behind the eight-ball because they’re allowing Kyle Seager to walk out the door. If they don’t do something significant to upgrade this team’s hitting, I will be disappointed, no matter how much I enjoy Robbie Ray and his tight pants.

John: Open up that war chest again, John Stanton, you know what we need now.

Eric: Not signing an impact bat would be massively disappointing. If they don’t make any further big adds past Ray, I honestly do not see how they truly compete in the arms race of the AL West in 2022.

Predictions for what happens by the 12/1 likely lockout deadline?

Anders: I still think there’s a trade coming. I expect that’s how they get their second starting pitcher. I’m going to guess that whichever of Story/Bryant/Suzuki/Taylor they get will end up being after the lockout is over.

Grant: Lockout, nobody else signs with the Mariners, months of boredom interrupted by college football bowl season.

Kate: A flurry of activity that ultimately doesn’t matter because the fog is coming for us all.

Eric: I’m holding out hope for a Bryant or Story before the end of the day, but I’m also prepared, as usual, for sadness and disappointment. You can’t hurt me, baseball. I’ve got hockey to keep me warm for now.