When trying to come up with some sort of guess about how much it might take to retain the Tennessee native, the most obvious place to look would be for a comparable performer who has been a free agent in recent years. However, when I looked at last offseason, the closest thing I could find would be Mike Minor, and I believe Ray will far surpass the two years and 18 million that Minor got from the Royals. Last winter wasn’t exactly a great time for contract comparisons either, as most teams were looking to save money after a shortened 2020 schedule, and profit losses for ownership groups.
In pursuit of a better comp, I went back to the 2019 offseason to see if there was a pitcher in a similar situation to Ray when he became a free agent. There are a few comparisons that make some semblance of sense, so I thought I’d break them down, as imperfect as they are.
To begin with, here’s the resume that Ray will take into free agency. He’ll still make another 10-15 starts in 2021 that could affect his value, but he’s having a career year at the right time.
Robbie Ray- 2021
9-5, 3.04 ERA, 1.065 WHIP, 150 K, 118.1 IP, 3.7 bWAR
Career: 58-56, 4.11 ERA, 1.345 WHIP, 12.6 bWAR
Madison Bumgardner- five years, 85 million
Now 32 years old, the comparison between Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray isn’t that far off, with the exception of one important factor. Bumgarner had a much better resume that Ray when he hit free agency at 30 years old, including a reputation as one of the best playoff performers of all-time. Even if free agency should be about “what can you do going forward?”, past accomplishments still factor into the equation.
That said, Bumgarner was 9-9 with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.127 WHIP over 30 starts in 2019, so he was pretty solid and proved that he was still durable with 207.2 inning pitched after two straight seasons compromised by injury. That season he was worth 2.6 bWAR, so Ray has already been more valuable through the first 100 or so games for the Blue Jays this season.
Again, Bumgarner’s resume made a big difference here, and I’m sure the Diamondbacks would admit that made an overpay on this one, but don’t be shocked if Ray’s agent uses Bumgarner’s contract as a comp during negotiations.