MLB Hot Stove, MLB Trade Rumors, Toronto Blue Jays

Sources: Toronto Blue Jays in talks with Robbie Ray, Steven Matz

Sources say the Blue Jays are looking to bolster their rotation by re-signing Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and Steven Matz.

The Toronto Blue Jays have made building up their rotation a priority this winter. They proved that by signing Jose Berrios to a seven-year, $131 million contract extension earlier this week.

But they aren’t done. Far from it.

Before extending Berrios, the Blue Jays pursued Andrew Heaney and Eduardo Rodriguez. They reportedly engaged with Justin Verlander. They were also heavily involved in the bidding for free-agent right-hander Noah Syndergaard before he signed with the Los Angeles Angels, according to major-league sources.

Signing Berrios, 27, to a long-term contract gives the Blue Jays additional security in the rotation while their competitive window is open. He is signed through 2028; Hyun Jin-Ryu is signed for two more seasons; Alek Manoah and Nate Pearson are under team control for another five seasons.

But the Blue Jays need two more starting pitchers, including another top-of-the-rotation arm, and remain in talks with pitchers Robbie Ray and Steven Matz, sources said, with one source saying that the team has “prioritized” the two free-agent left-handers.

Locking down Robbie Ray and Steven Matz could lift the Blue Jays rotation from good to great

Ray, 30, won the American League Cy Young award after posting a 2.84 ERA in 193.1 innings, including a 32.1 percent strikeout rate. He attacked the strike zone with more frequency, which decreased his walk rate (6.7 percent; 17.9 percent in 2020), and a revamped offseason workout program increased his velocity. After signing a one-year, $8 million deal last winter, he will go down as one of general manager Ross Atkins’ best acquisitions in Toronto.

Matz, 30, was an afterthought after being acquired from the New York Mets last offseason. But after posting a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts, including a 2.91 ERA in the second half, he’s positioned himself as one of the most attractive starters remaining on the market. He limited hard contact (27.1 percent; 39.6 percent in 2020) and his 1.1 home runs per nine innings were his lowest since 2016. Of the two, he’s expected to sign the quickest, with a belief that he could have a deal in place before Thanksgiving.

The Berrios extension gives the Blue Jays flexibility in addressing their rotation. With an $11 million salary for 2022, and their payroll currently at $115 million, they have money available to sign Ray, Matz, Marcus Semien or any other free agent. They can explore short-term deals in free agency or one-year rentals via trade.

Their pursuits of high-end starting pitchers indicate that the Blue Jays intend to contend in 2022. There are other areas the team will look to address, including another infielder, but their primary focus is currently on the rotation — and the Berrios extension is only the beginning.

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