So, what’s the verdict?
For me, if I had to choose between Semien and Ray it comes down to three questions. The first one we won’t know the answer to for a while, and that’s the cost of retaining each player. My guess is they won’t be that far apart though, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see one or both of them sign a long-term deal for more than 100 million before the year is over.
The second part is about future value, and that’s also pretty tough to predict. Semien likely gets the edge in that department because he’s had more than one season as a truly elite player. Ray had been an All-Star once before prior to coming to Toronto, but he had never pitched anywhere near the level we saw from him this season. That said, I’m a believer that he’s turned a corner as a Blue Jay and he’ll remain as a top-tier starter for at least the next few seasons as he enters his 30’s.
Lastly, the other factor that I would strongly consider would be the roster need. The more I think about this question, the more I come back to the old saying that you can never have too much pitching, and that takes Ray to the top of my projected free agent list for the Blue Jays.
Looking ahead, this team is going to have a ton of firepower in the lineup with or without Semien, including All-Stars like Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer, and Teoscar Hernandez, as well as emerging talents like Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Alejandro Kirk, and even Santiago Espinal. There’s no doubt that they’re a better team with Semien also included, and they wouldn’t have sniffed the playoff race without him in 2022, but hopefully they can still be a dynamic offence either way.
As for the rotation? That’s where the future is a little more dicey. Ryu showed us late this season that at 34 years old, he may not be an “ace” anymore for the last two years of his deal, even if he can still be an above-average contributor. There is no guarantee that Berrios stays beyond the end of his contract that expires after next season, and relying on Nate Pearson to stay healthy is a pretty big “if”. In a worst case scenario, by 2023 you could be left with Manoah and a 36 year old Ryu on an expiring contract.
For what it’s worth, I’ll be thrilled if the Blue Jays can retain either of the two stars, and I’ll be over the moon if they both return. I do expect that it’ll likely come down to one or the other though, and if my life depended on it and I had to choose one, I’d have to go with Ray. It’s a lot more complex than that for the Blue Jays’ front office as they approach the offseason, but I’ll be very curious to see where their priorities are with these two players, as well as with the rest of the roster.