Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Ross Stripling has earned himself some money this season and will be a free agent at the end of the year.
He’s gone from a long-relief guy to an essential part of the starting rotation and it’s fair to wonder where the Jays would be without Stripling this season.
Retaining the right-hander would go a long way towards securing the future of the starting five for the next several years, but what would it take to get a deal done? Here’s a look at what Stripling’s next contract could look like.
Blue Jays: Bringing back Ross
While it’s easy to envision Stripling being back in blue next season and beyond, it will take mutual interest and a competitive offer in order to make that happen.
The offer will reflect on Ross’ perceived value around the league and a projection of his future productivity. Stripling’s case is different from other starting pitchers though, because of how frequently his role has changed throughout his career.
Stripling has made 200 appearances in his career and has started 100 games. Since being a Blue Jay, Strip has gone from the bullpen to a starter a few times. However, over the last two seasons, out of necessity, Stripling has started 39 games, the most over a two-year period since he’s been in the majors.
Blue Jays: Comparing Stripling to other starters
While Stripling has undoubtedly increased his value during this season, he’s not necessarily considered to be one of the most sought-after pitchers available this Winter. Jacob DeGrom, Carlos Rodon, and Justin Verlander (if he doesn’t retire or take the player option) will command much of the attention and dollars.
Clayton Kershaw and Chris Bassitt will also be hitting the open market and are in a higher stratosphere. Just down the ranks from those two are a couple of pitchers that Stripling could reasonably be compared to.
Nathan Eovaldi and Sonny Gray are two logical comparisons who will also be hitting the open market following this season. Eovaldi signed a four-year, $68 million deal prior to the 2019 season. He’s had a hard time proving he’s worth that payday, making just 21 starts combined in 2019 and 2020.
Gray, meanwhile, has been a better value since signing a 4-year, $38 million contract before the 2019 season. He hasn’t missed much time and his numbers are similar to Stripling’s, especially this season.
Gray is 7–4 with a 3.09 ERA over 110.2 innings, with 108 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP. Stripling is 7-4 with a 3.03 ERA over 113 innings with 98 punchouts and a 1.00 WHIP. It’s stunning how closely these two match up this year.
Other pitchers that are comparable as far as age and abilities are Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Andrew Heaney, and Mike Clevinger. The combined average annual salaries of that quartet are a little under $8M each. Factoring in the AAVs of Eovaldi and Gray, it averages out to about $10 million.
So, that means a reasonable offer to Stripling would be in the $10-15 million per year range. I think a 4-year, $50 million deal should suffice, with the flexibility to go up to $60M if the market heats up.
Blue Jays: Ross’ other suitors
As natural as it is to see Stripling back with his Blue Jays teammates next season, he will have other offers.
This weekend series in Texas has highlighted Stripling’s deep Texas roots and the Rangers would only be doing their due diligence by seeing if he would be interested in playing for his hometown team. The Astros would likely make that same call.
Rebuilding teams like the Tigers, Cubs, or D-Backs could make a pitch to Stripling to come in and help to stabilize their rotation while the rest of the roster improves.
The Jays already have Jose Berrios on the books for six more years, and Kevin Gausman is coming back for four more years at a $22 million clip. And don’t forget that they’re still on the hook for two more years of Yusei Kikuchi, and one more of Hyun-Jin Ryu.
No matter what, Ross Stripling will have an enhanced bank account, and one team will have an improved pitching staff. The Blue Jays will feel compelled to make a strong offer, but not one that will clash with their other existing or future contractual obligations.