The Seattle Mariners are determined to end their playoff drought. They were one of the biggest surprises in baseball last season, finishing with 90 wins despite a -51 run differential on the season. General manager Jerry Dipoto vowed to be active this offseason to bring the team back to the postseason, which considering his usual amount of transactions, meant that the Mariners could look drastically different.
That quest for the postseason took another step forward on Monday. The Mariners have signed Robbie Ray to a five year deal worth a reported $115 million.
Robbie Ray has plenty of pressure with Seattle Mariners
In theory, the Mariners have their ace. Ray is the defending AL Cy Young award winner, having posted a league leading 2.84 ERA and a 1.045 WHiP over his 193.1 innings, striking out a major league best 248 batters with 52 walks. It was an impressive bounceback season after Ray was close to being on the scrap heap.
It is also an impressive gamble by the Mariners. Ray had a combined 4.53 ERA and a 1.427 WHiP in his 349.2 innings from 2018 through 2020, striking out 468 batters with 199 walks. His 5.1 BB/9 rate over that time hardly inspired any confidence as he appeared to be on the verge of losing his command entirely.
That changed in Toronto. The Blue Jays found a flaw and worked with him to correct those issues. His 2.4 BB/9 rate in 2021 was easily the best of his career and a testament to the work the Blue Jays coaching staff did with him.
The Mariners are gambling that those changes will continue, that the Robbie Ray that we saw in 2021 will be the same pitcher he will be going forward. He had displayed flashes of being a future ace during his time in Arizona, but those flashes were never sustained.
Now, he will have to be that pitcher. The Mariners are counting on Ray to be the ace of their rotation, to be the arm that can help lead them to the postseason. They had come within two games last year without that top of the rotation arm, leading to the hope that he can make that difference. The pressure is squarely upon his shoulders.
The Seattle Mariners feel that they have their ace in Robbie Ray. Considering the size of his contract, they had better be correct.