Drayer: Where Mariners offseason stands after adding ace Robbie Ray

Nov 29, 2021, 4:10 PM
Mariners Robbie Ray...
Robbie Ray of the Blue Jays pitches against the Boston Red Sox on July 28. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
(Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Nervous Mariners fans had to wait a bit, but lunchtime Monday the M’s got in the game and landed a prime free agent target.

Mariners signing Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, per reports

The Mariners and 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray are in agreement on a five-year, $115 million dollar deal that is expected to be completed Tuesday afternoon pending results of Ray’s physical.

The contract, which includes an opt-out after the third year, is the longest general manager Jerry Dipoto has given to a free agent in the time he has been with the Mariners. Any questions that “Trader Jerry” was averse to spending on free agents should be knocked out by this deal.

Ray comes to Seattle having turned down a qualifying offer from Toronto, which means the Mariners will have to surrender a draft pick to the Blue Jays, something else Dipoto has not done while with the Mariners. The willingness to do so is another indicator that the Mariners are indeed at a different stage of their “step back” or rebuild as established players are now the priority.

The move prompted a good amount of celebration on Twitter which, was followed by a good amount of “What next?”

MLB Network’s Jon Morosi has got this crowd covered.

Before the next, a look at the now. Early in the offseason, Dipoto stated he was looking to fill two rotation spots – one through free agency, the other probably through trade – and add a couple of bats, most likely in the infield. He wouldn’t rule out adding an outfielder but did not consider it a primary need. With the addition of Ray on Monday and second baseman/outfielder Adam Frazier in a trade Saturday, Dipoto may or may not be halfway to completing the Mariners’ 2022 roster, but what he has done so far is significant.

M’s Breakdown: What you need to know about 2B Adam Frazier

If Ray comes close to repeating his 2021 performance, the Mariners have a legitimate MLB ace. At a minimum they are adding not only a staff ace but the strikeout arm the rotation has been missing since Félix Hernández’s heyday. Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen, Logan Gilbert and a fifth starter to be determined should slot in nicely behind the anchor of the rotation, and Ray should be much more than a guy who eats innings.

In addition to what he brings every fifth day, Ray’s presence should benefit the Mariners’ younger power pitchers expected to arrive over the next two seasons. Worth noting, the ability to land a top arm in free agency makes it less likely Dipoto will have to give up one of his top younger arms this winter to improve the club.

Offensively, there is work to be done. Frazier provides both stability and flexibility in the now and in what could happen next. Should this be it – and it shouldn’t – the Mariners likely have a new part-time (at least) leadoff hitter who will help extend the lineup. We should see good at-bats that are tough on opposing pitchers at the top of the lineup, but more production is needed beyond whatever steps are taken forward by the younger M’s hitters. It is also about time that, unless we are talking about Kris Bryant, the Mariners’ infielders-in-the-outfield era comes to an end. Ideally, the Mariners add an established bat that ensures Frazier can stay at second and/or Abraham Toro is used off the bench.

There are players available both in free agency and trade that remain attractive to the Mariners. For now, they have a bit of breathing room heading into the expected MLB lockout on Wednesday. The good news: if it lingers and the resumed offseason is condensed to a couple of weeks, thanks to the addition of Ray and Frazier, Dipoto won’t be scrambling then to fill critical needs.

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