With the news of Robbie Ray being traded from the Seattle Mariners to the San Francisco Giants, it should recall fond memories from his time with the Toronto Blue Jays. Ray was very solid north of the border, culminating in a 2021 AL CY Young award. Ultimately, as a free agent, Ray chose to sign with a team that was willing to pay a pretty penny for his future services. Thankfully the Blue Jays pitching staff has been able to hold its own since his departure.
Ray was first acquired in the summer of 2020 and did not perform well. It seemed like a perpetuation of his career to that point, as he had only once recorded an ERA below 3.00 in the prior six years. He pitched to a 4.79 ERA across five games for Toronto following a midseason trade from Arizona for pitcher Travis Bergen. It was only five regular season outings, but he also made a start in the Wild Card series in St. Petersburg against the Rays and held his own even as Toronto dropped both games.
The now-32-year-old was an overpowering force with a high-octane fastball able to fine tune those offerings in an excellent 2021 season. He amassed 248 strikeouts to go with a 157 ERA+ across 32 starts. Ray posted sterling numbers at home, especially once the team returned to Rogers Centre and was critical down the stretch including in mid-September when he held Tampa Bay to one run in seven innings. In all, he posted double-digit strikeout totals in ten starts that year.
The worst case for Toronto is that his performance was wasted because they missed the playoffs by one game. Ray further tormented the Blue Jays in the 2022 AL Wild Card series, a game and series that most fans want to forever expunge from their mind. To be fair, Ray’s tenure in Seattle was mixed, but it is a sensible move for a San Francisco team desperate to make a splash.
This success story is a strong feather in the cap for pitching coach Pete Walker. The Blue Jays coaching staff has been drawing mixed reviews recently, but Walker has done a nice job of developing pitchers during his decade-plus tenure with the club. Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, Jose Berrios are some who have reached new levels with the club under Walker’s tutelage.
Good luck Robbie Ray in your new digs and the city of Toronto still holds you in high regard for everything you did!