The Blue Jays should have one of the better starting rotations in the American League in 2022, and the right financial formula for sustained success as well.
As I look at the rotation that Ross Atkins and his front office team have put together, I’m really excited to see what they can do in the season ahead, but I’m equally as optimistic about the future beyond 2022 as well. That’s because the talented core pieces of the group are going to be here for a while.
That list includes Jose Berrios, who just signed a seven-year extension late last year that will keep the 27 year old in Toronto through the 2028 season, making him a Blue Jay for what should be the prime of the talented right-hander’s career. The deal will pay Berrios at least 131 million over the life of the contract, which could turn out to be a bargain for Puerto Rican hurler. They also made a marquee signing before the last CBA expired by inking Kevin Gausman to a five-year pact worth 110 million, which also has the potential to be another bargain for the sixth place finisher in NL Cy Young voting last season.
In addition to the duo at the top the Blue Jays still have two years left of Hyun Jin Ryu’s current deal for 20 million per season. He may not be looked at as the ace of the group anymore, but he’s still an above-average starter, especially if he’s viewed as the number three or four. Then there’s Alek Manoah, who burst on to the scene last year and made countless fans in the process. He showed big time ability on the mound, and should have an extremely bright future ahead. And speaking of bright futures, if Nate Pearson can stay healthy and reach his potential then he’s probably one of the best #5 starters in baseball.
On top of being a big believer in the upside of this group, I love what the front office has done in terms of setting them up for the long-term. Part of that is the just the stability that they’ll see over the next few years, with Berrios around for seven more seasons, Gausman for five, and Manoah and Pearson under contract for six more (unless something changes with the next CBA). It’s not easy to find high-end starting pitching, and between Berrios, Gausman, and Manoah the Blue Jays should have a solid trio for at least the next five years, with Pearson giving them a chance to add a fourth.
However, I’m an equally big fan of the way that Atkins and company have structured the payroll as far as their commitments in the rotation. At a time when teams are having to pay 35 million or more for an ace calibre starter, the Jays have done well to lock up Berrios and Gausman for closer to the 20 million range. They’ll pay 20 million per season for Ryu for the next two years, and then they’ll be able to allocate that money elsewhere, which in part will likely be to Manoah’s salary that will have escalated a bit by then.
While I’d love for the Blue Jays to go out and sign the very best of the best whenever free agency opens, there is a limit to what I think is responsible as far as leaving payroll space for the rest of the roster. I mean, Gerrit Cole will be making 36 million for each of the next seven seasons with the Yankees, and Max Scherzer will earn an annual average salary of over 43 million for the next three years with the Mets. For the prize of Scherzer, the Blue Jays literally have Gausman and Berrios under contract, and for the long-term too. Would I want Scherzer and/or Cole on the Blue Jays? Of course, but not at that outlandish rate, and not when they have so many other areas of the roster to commit significant payroll to in the future.
What Atkins and the front office have done is found a way to give the Blue Jays what they need in the present as far as talent goes (in theory), and have locked that in for the long-term without hamstringing the rest of their roster-building efforts. Right now it looks like a master class in rebuilding an MLB rotation, and I can’t wait to watch things play out over the next few years.