This upcoming offseason is poised to be one of the most action-packed in recent memory, bolstered by an extremely strong free-agent class that boasts lots of middle infield talent and a season that saw clubs regain some money with the return of fans to stadiums and a full 162 games.
Both individuals were signed last offseason to separate one-year deals and both players are poised for huge raises after the fantastic seasons they had. Ray is in contention for the Cy Young Award after posting an AL-leading 2.84 ERA and 248 strikeouts while Semien was solid at second base, breaking a Major League record for home runs in a single season at the position with 45 round-trippers and finishing first amongst AL second baseman in terms of OPS (.873), slugging (.538), and RBI (102).
While both players may not return to the Blue Jays next season, there is one pitcher who will be in the starting rotation and should be considered for an extension after the numbers he put up this year.
While the headlines may be dominated by Ray and Semien, the Blue Jays should consider extending pitcher Jose Berrios this offseason as well.
Acquired from the Minnesota Twins at the trade deadline, right-hander Jose Berrios was brought in to help bolster the rotation and came with a hefty price tag because of his additional year of contract control, with the Blue Jays sending top prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson the opposite way.
Pitchers with experience are worth their weight in gold at the deadline, especially if they are not just considered a rental player. Berrios was pitching well with the Twins before joining the Blue Jays and continued to pitch well North of the border, throwing to a 3.58 ERA with 78 strikeouts through 12 starts and 70.0 innings with his new club. He would finish the season second in innings pitched (192.0), third in WHIP (1.06), fourth in opponents batting average (.223), fifth in strikeouts (204), and eighth in walks (45) amongst AL pitchers. For his career, the Puerto Rican product sports a 4.04 ERA through 148 appearances with 857 strikeouts and 9.06 K/9.
The extra year of control with Berrios is huge for the upcoming season, especially if Ray does not return next year. The right-hander will slot in right alongside Alek Manoah and Hyun Jin Ryu at the top of the rotation, with Nate Pearson most likely getting another crack for a starting role alongside either a returning Ray or another pitcher, whether internal or brought in via trade/free agency.
That being said, why stop at just next year? Berrios does have a proven track record of being a top of the rotation arm, with his last five seasons seeing him produce an ERA 4.00 or below while staying relatively healthy, pitching 190.0 plus innings in three of those years (last year being COVID-19 shortened). The Blue Jays rotation does better with Berrios in it and he is only poised to do better as he turns 28 next year, the prime years of a baseball player. He was also brilliant in high-pressure situations late in the season and was even tabbed to pitch in the tiebreaker game if required.
Financially, the right-hander will most likely be looking at a deal around the $15 million area but I would not be surprised if it starts to move towards the $20 million zone. He is currently entering his third year of arbitration after avoiding the process with the Twins last offseason, signing a one-year $6.1 million dollar contract that will surely increase this year, most likely around the $8-10 million mark if I had to guess.
Can the Blue Jays afford a contract extension like this? They technically could when you look at current projections for payroll, but there are two things the front office will have to consider:
1) If they do plan to bring back Ray and Semien and are successful, they will have to be a little more cautious with their finances, as both players will be commanding more than what they made last year ($8 and $18 million respectively) and this could force the team to not extend others
2) Other players on the roster may also be “extension worthy” as well like Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, and Teoscar Hernandez. If the club wants to commit money to any of these players, they will have to make some sacrifices, one of them potentially being a Berrios extension
Looking at the big picture, Berrios would be great to have on the roster for more than the 2022 campaign and it would also make fans feel a little bit better about sending two top prospects the other way if the Blue Jays can get additional years out of the right-hander.
Do you think the Blue Jays should extend Berrios this offseason?