Heading into the 2022 free agency period, the Toronto Blue Jays opted to extend qualifying offers to Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien. Steven Matz did not receive the QO and later signed a four-year, $44 contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
On Sunday, it was reported that Semien has reached an agreement with the Texas Rangers for a seven-year, $175 million contract, setting the bar for the top free agent infielders.
Marcus Semien's deal with the Texas Rangers is for seven years and $175 million, a source familiar with the agreement tells ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 28, 2021
Semien and Cy Young winner Ray were both expected to command large paydays. With Semien off the board, the Toronto Blue Jays will need to make a big splash in order to keep pace with the other 2022 title hopefuls.
As things currently stand, the Jays’ rotation pieces consist of:
Hyun-Jin Ryu (124 ERA+ 197 IP/162 G)
José Berríos (108 ERA+ 196 IP/162 G)
Alek Manoah (136 ERA+ 190 IP/162 G – projected)
Thomas Hatch (118 ERA+ 106 IP/162 G – projected)
Nate Pearson appeared in only 12 games and his rookie status will remain intact through 2022, per Baseball Reference.
Ryu and Berríos are a better 1-2 combo than most teams have, but a true contender needs at least three elite starters. The AL East is also highly competitive. The Jays were unable to secure a postseason berth in 2021 even with a Cy Young campaign from Ray and two MVP finalists in Semien and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. They will need to add some top performers to get past the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.
As of this writing, the Jays have reached terms with Kevin Gausman on a five-year, $110 million contract, making Mets fans mad online for the second year in a row.
Kevin Gausman, 30, is coming off a superb 2021 in which he struck out 227 in 192 innings with a 2.81 ERA. His market was hot, and he winds up with a Toronto team that already has Jose Berrios, Alek Manoah and Hyun-Jin Ryu in its rotation. The Blue Jays are built to win now.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 29, 2021
Kevin Gausman had a great 2021, but I see him as a replacement for Matz given his overall track record (105 ERA+, 185 IP/162 G).
With the middle of the rotation shored up, the Jays will need to consider making a concerted effort to re-sign Ray or even go after Max Scherzer. Outside of those two options, Clayton Kershaw and Marcus Stroman remain available. While I am sure many Jays fans would love to see Stroman back under the dome, I rank him below the other top available free agent starters since he is not a power arm and his value will depend on the defense lined up behind him.
My top free agent starting pitchers are as follows:
- Scherzer (2021 ERA+: 166)
- Ray (2021 ERA+: 154 – led AL)
- Kershaw (2021 ERA+: 115)
- Stroman (2021 ERA+: 133)
The Jays’ extension of Berríos and reported deal with Gausman are very encouraging signs that they intend to make a title run in 2022, but they should not rest on their laurels. Adding an elite starter will help them break through the logjam in the AL East and win a division pennant.
Featured Image: Toronto, Canada – May 30, 2017. Sign of Blue Jays at store in Eaton Centre Toronto by Lester Balajadia / Shutterstock.com.