Detroit Tigers free agent target: Starting pitcher Robbie Ray
November Contender is well underway at Motor City Bengals with free agent LHP Robbie Ray next on the list for the Detroit Tigers to consider.
If you’ve been a fan of the Detroit Tigers for a while, this name might be a throwback for you.
Left-handed starting pitcher Robbie Ray was a completely different ballplayer the last time we saw him step on the bump as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2014.
At that point, Dave Dombrowski was the General Manager and President of the Tigers and built a rotation that was considered unstoppable. The Tigers ended up first in the AL Central but ultimately got swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Division deciding series. With such a potent lineup, it ended in disappointment to say the least.
Robbie Ray was drafted in 2010 by the Washington Nationals in the 12th round and spent time in the minors for the three years he was with the club, never being called to the Majors up until he signed with the Tigers.
Starting the season in Triple-A Toledo, Ray showed signs of promise with a 4.57 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in 20 games pitched. Producing a 2.45 ERA in four games in the Arizona Fall League, his short stint earned him a shot with the Tigers.
It’s safe to say that 2014 was the worst he’s pitched throughout his career in the Majors.
With an ERA of 8.16 and a 1.88 WHIP in nine Major League games, Ray struggled with command, eventually leading him to being dealt as part of a three-team package with the Tigers, New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks that sent him to the Grand Canyon State and Shane Greene to Detroit.
Ray’s time in Arizona was a significant improvement, but he bounced around from the minors to the bigs between 2015 to 2020, before getting picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays and completely reinventing himself as a starter.
What could Robbie Ray do for the Tigers?
We all know how his season with Toronto played out, and the southpaw is memorable for more than just his pants and slight resemblance to Pete Wentz on the mound.
Ray, 30, is a CY Young finalist in the AL and penned the best year of his playing career. Where his command was spotty in the beginning of his time in the Majors, he found the strike zone in 2021 leading him to being the Blue Jays ace (the other kind, not the mascot).
Ray absolutely dominated on the mound, with a 2.84 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 193.1 innings pitched, tallying 248 strikeouts and 6.7 WAR on the season. He relies mostly on two pitches, leaning more towards his four-seam fastball and mixing in a stellar slider — the same slider that he struggled to command back in the beginning of his career.
The Tigers have already made significant moves in signing catcher Tucker Barnhart, and with an elite backstop, could the next move be to bulk up the starting rotation?
Ray was an obvious reason as to why the Blue Jays were so successful this season, being mere games away from a postseason stint. He’s clearly improved his command and he’s locked in enough that he could take the young Tigers club to contention, having experience playing with a young team with the Blue Jays. He could be the arm the Tigers need to head the rotation of youngsters.
The Blue Jays originally signed Ray to a one-year, $8-million contract for 2021 and extended him a qualifying offer at the end of this season. The Jays also extended a qualifying offer to Gold Glove winner Marcus Semien, who has already turned down the $18.4 million deal and it’s likely Ray will do the same to test the free agent market, with the Los Angeles Angels already sparking interest.
Given that he’s a strong candidate for the AL CY Young, his price tag will skyrocket and it’s probable that he’ll want a contract that extends over the $100-million mark, for an amount of time that the Tigers might be unwilling to take a chance on.
With recent reports of the Tigers taking interest in Colorado Rockies RHP Jon Gray and San Francisco Giants RHP Anthony DeSclafani, it’s obvious the Tigers aren’t willing to shell out a significant amount on a higher-tier pitcher, with sights still set on filling the gap at shortstop.
While I’m here for a redemption story and for Ray’s career to come full circle in Detroit, it’s unlikely the Tigers Front Office will make a play for the hurler.