Just as the Blue Jays have questions about their free agents in the infield, the same goes for the rotation. They’ll have to compete with the rest of the league if they want to retain Robbie Ray, but they could also have plenty of competition to bring back Steven Matz as well.
There is all kinds of incentive to try and retain both of the talented southpaws, although that will be easier said than done. Ray went from signing a one-year, eight million dollar “show me” contract to being the leading contender for the AL Cy Young award. Chances are he’ll end up with a nine-figure contract as a result, and I very much expect the Blue Jays to be among the most aggressive bidders.
Matz is a different case, as he’s hitting free agency for the first time after earning 5.2 million last year having arrived in a trade with the New York Mets. The 30 year old quietly put together a very nice season over 29 starts, finishing 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.334 WHIP across 150.2 innings, striking out 144.
In my mind, Matz may be a bit of a fallback plan if the Jays can’t or decide not to re-sign Ray. They still have some talent in the rotation, but it would certainly be a good idea to enter next season with strong depth. They had a fair bit of luck in that department in 2021, but you can’t count on that happening every season.
For the time being, the depth chart likely looks something like this without Ray and Matz in the fold:
1- Jose Berrios
2- Hyun Jin Ryu
3- Alek Manoah
4- Nate Pearson
5- Ross Stripling
6- Thomas Hatch
7- Anthony Kay, etc
Given Pearson’s frequent stops in the Injured List, it will be especially important to bring in another quality MLB arm to help protect the depth of the group, which could even push Stripling to a swing-man role. In my mind, that’s a best case scenario.