Zack Wheeler- five years, 118 million
The last name I’ll point to from the 2019 free agent SP class is Zack Wheeler from the Philadelphia Phillies. Wheeler and his agent hit the jackpot at the time, but I also believe that his situation might be the closest comparison to Ray, and that’s not great news for the Blue Jays’ front office.
Wheeler was 29 at the time that he became a free agent, and like Ray, had a bit of an inconsistent MLB performance to that point. During his walk year he went 11-8 with a 3.96 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, striking out 195 over 195.1 innings, and earning 4.1 bWAR. He was also very good in 2018 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.124 WHIP earning 4.0 bWAR.
With that resume it’s a little strange that Wheeler was able to secure so much more than a guy like Ryu, but this was also a decision of potential for the Phillies. So far it’s paid off as well, as Wheeler received some NL Cy Young votes in 2020, and he leads the NL in both innings pitched and strikeouts in 2021.
Teams looked at Wheeler and saw a hard-throwing and talented starter that had turned a corner, and likely hadn’t reached his ceiling yet. It’s entirely possible that there’s at least one team around the league that’s looking at Ray and seeing the same thing. Unfortunately, all it takes is one team making a huge bid like that, and the Blue Jays might have to think twice about how far they’re willing to go to retain him.