The Athletic blatantly disrespects Jose Berrios, Blue Jays in 'bad contracts' piece

Seriously? An $18.7M AAV for five more years of a 29-year old stud in his prime - with the 3rd most starts and innings pitched in MLB since 2018 - is a bad contract?

Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays
Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic (subscription required) ranked the ten worst current MLB contracts (think Stephen Strasburg, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Rodón, Javier Báez and Anthony Rendon), and stunningly mentioned the José Berríos contract as an “honorable mention” of an existing deal that seems acceptable now “but could age poorly”…

With five years and $104.6M remaining on the Berríos contract, you’d be hard pressed to find a Blue Jays fan who would agree. The 2023 AL Gold Glover had an outstanding campaign this year, close to his career averages for starts, innings pitched, strikeouts, K/9 and BB/9.

His 3.65 ERA was a half run better than his career average 4.15, and his ERA+ of 116 means he was 16% better than average MLB pitchers. He ended his season absolutely dealing in Game 2 of the ALWC, with 5 strikeouts and a walk over three innings and 47 pitches.

Since signing a seven-year, $131M contract extension with the Blue Jays in Nov. 2021, the 29-year-old has gone 23-19 with a 4.40 ERA over 64 starts and 361.2 innings, with 333 strikeouts and 97 walks. While his ERA+ of 92 is below league-average thanks to a tough 2022 season with a 5.23 ERA, the Blue Jays are 40-24 (.625) in Berrios’ starts since then.

In 2024, Berrios will earn a base salary of $17M, with an AAV of $18.7M. That seems like a bargain for a consistent starting pitcher who had the 22nd-lowest ERA among qualified starters, with the 16th most innings pitched this year. With 30 major league teams, a top-25 starter in those categories implies serious value.

Appropriately nicknamed “La Makina”, the native of Puerto Rico has been a machine, making 32 starts every regular, full season since 2018. Since then, he has the 3rd-most MLB starts at 172, trailing only Aaron Nola and Gerrit Cole; he’s pitched the 3rd-most innings at 1009.1, plus Berríos has the 16th-best fWAR (16.5) and the 7th-most wins (66), which ties him with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Wheeler and Nola.

That sounds like a consistent ace-like starter over years of sustained success. As he enters his age-30 season in his prime, and as one of the hardest working starting pitchers in the game, Blue Jays fans can be confident that The Athletic got this one way wrong.

If his contract is going to “age poorly” through his 34-year old season, it’s certainly surprising to anyone in the GTHA and north of the 49th parallel! If anything, the real concern should be if he opts out of his contract after the 2026 season to test free agency ahead of his age-33 season in 2027. If he stays, the Blue Jays would owe him $24M a season in 2027 and 2028, with incentive escalators up to $5M. Given qualifying offers for free agents this year were $20.325M, that seems like a bargain.