Red Sox could steal for a division rival
Robbie Ray is the front-runner for the Cy Young award after leading the league with a 2.84 ERA, 1.045 WHIP, 248 strikeouts and 193 1/3 innings.
Ray has always been an elite strikeout artist, owning an 11.2 K/9 for his career. His 11.5 K/9 this year was certainly no fluke and he’s shown the upside for more. His walk rate might be an outlier though. Ray improved his command to reduce his staggering 7.8 BB/9 last year to a stellar 2.4 BB/9 this season. His career rate still stands at a troubling 3.9 BB/9 so the drastic decline in walks was certainly a surprise.
As dominant as he could be at times, Ray has a habit of giving up the long ball. His 1.54 HR/9 was tied for the fourth-highest and his 90.4 average exit velocity was the worst among qualified starters. It’s shocking that he managed to win an ERA title with those numbers. If Ray’s control regresses toward his career walk rate, many of the solo shots he coughed up will turn into crooked numbers in a hurry.
Reworking his approach by adjusting his mechanics and bringing a more aggressive mentality to the mound can be credited for the improvement in walk rate. Ray is almost exclusively a fastball/slider pitcher now. He can generate swings-and-misses with his curve but struggles to command it in the strike zone so cutting back on utilizing it has helped limit walks. A case can be made that increasing the usage of his fastball to 59.4% and attacking the strike zone explains the high home run rate and exit velocity. That’s a fair trade off for reducing walks, which can lead to multiple runs and rapidly increasing pitch counts.
A team willing to sign Ray is banking on him sustaining this performance. Is that a fools errand? No more so than assuming Gausman can do it while switching leagues. Ray’s price tag might be steeper, especially if he takes home the Cy Young hardware, but the commitment might be shorter. MLBTR predicts a five-year, $130 million deal.
The Blue Jays extended a qualifying offer to Ray. While the Red Sox should be more willing to pay that penalty for a top free agent than they have been in recent years, it’s still a cost that has to be factored in when debating between Ray and other options on the list.