At 32 years of age, Ross Stripling is having a career season that is setting him up for the most important offseason of his career, as he hits free agency for the first time later this year. The question is, what do the Blue Jays have in Stripling and how do they go about locking him up for next season and going forward (if they choose to do so)?
The Blue Jays acquired Stripling at the 2020 trade deadline and things did not look good initially, as he was hit hard in four of his five appearances. In his one good outing, Stripling pitched four shutout innings to close out a 14-1 win over the New York Yankees, however, in his four other appearances, he surrendered 11 earned runs over 11.2 innings (8.48 ERA). In his lone postseason appearance against the Tampa Bay Rays, he surrendered three base hits and a run in just over an inning of work. To say things didn’t look promising was an understatement.
Going into the 2021 season, Stripling earned a spot in the rotation, but after two starts he had allowed seven runs over 8.1 innings with the club losing both games. He went through a stretch of 18 appearances (17 starts) and posed a 5-5 record with a 4.02 ERA, with the club winning ten of those games. While not spectacular, he had the makings of a back-of-the-rotation type pitcher, but he was moved to the bullpen for September where he struggled.
To start the 2022 season, Stripling took on the sixth rotation spot to fill in if needed should an injury arise. He made five starts near the beginning of the season when injuries raised to the rotation, where he pitched four or more innings on each outing. In three of the outings, he looked pretty good, pitching 13.0 innings combined and allowing just three runs, however, the rotation got healthy and he was moved back to the bullpen. In June, the outlook of Stripling’s career would change as he would move to the rotation full-time due to the season-ending injury to Hyun Jin Ryu.
No Blue Jay fan will be shocked to read here that Stripling has been nothing short of amazing, and had he been in the starting rotation since the beginning of the year (and pitched like this all season), he potentially could be in the Cy Young conversation.
Since joining the rotation, Stripling has made 16 starts, helping the club win 12 of those games. His own personal record is 12-4 and has posted a 2.47 ERA and has given up just 23 extra-base hits, of which only eight of those are for home runs over 87.1 innings. Stripling has allowed three earned runs in just three outings, two of which were quality starts where he pitched six innings. In total, Stripling has nine quality starts and he has a current streak of six straight.
What will the Blue Jays do with Stripling this offseason?
He will be 33 years old this off-season and for the first time is a free agent eligible. MLB Trade Rumors predicted the qualifying offers for free agents this upcoming offseason could be around $18-19 Million, so would you go ahead and offer him that if you are Ross Atkins?
The Blue Jays should be going into these negotiations trying to keep Stripling on a multi-year deal, whether it is two or three years and not fall in love with the now and sign him to anything longer. As much as I love what he has brought to the team this season, he has never pitched more than 122 innings in a season, which he should pass Tuesday night and finish the year between 130-135 innings total. He is also coming off the 2020 and 2021 seasons where he posted a combined 5.14 ERA. With those numbers out there, there is much to like with bringing Stripling back as he is showing he is a middle-of-the-rotation arm.
Since the middle of June, Ross Stripling has easily been one of the top pitchers in the Blue Jays rotation and has helped the club to a .750 winning percentage in his starts
First, if a contract isn’t signed by the time the Blue Jays need to qualify Stripling, I would do just that. At worst, you would be paying approximately $19 Million on a one-year deal and the Jays have offered just as much for a pitcher struggling this year (Kikuchi). If he doesn’t take the offer, the Blue Jays would be entitled to draft pick compensation, similar to what happened when they lost Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien last season. Stripling could bet on himself, take the offer and try and up his value going into the 2023/2024 offseason, but my guess is he declines the offer in hopes of a multi-year deal.
A few weeks ago, I heard Pat Tabler say during one of the games that he would sign Stripling that day to a three-year deal worth $8 Million annually, and let me say I would too, the problem is I don’t think Stripling would take it.
If I were the club and player, I would look at a similar contract that Kikuchi got this past offseason and try to lock him up for around three years at $36 Million, the first year being $16 Million followed by two seasons of $10 Million. If this deal was announced, I would be very ok with it personally.