Sources: Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and Mariners finalizing $ 115 million contract

Reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and the Seattle Mariners are finalizing a five-year, $ 115 million contract with an opt-out option after season three, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. .

Ray joins a Mariners team that surprised many last season by finishing second in the AL West with a 90-72 record.

Ray went from being one of the worst starters in the majors in 2020 to being the best in the American League in 2021, earning AL Cy Young honors after going 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA for the Toronto Blue Jays and lead the American League in ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP. Ray had been a free agent after the 2020 season, but after leading the majors with 45 walks in 51⅔ innings between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Blue Jays, and posting a 6.64 ERA, he re-signed with Toronto to a one-year deal. and $ 8 million.

The Blue Jays will receive draft compensation as Ray turned down the team’s qualifying offer earlier this month. Toronto moved to replace Ray in their rotation Sunday when they agreed to a five-year, $ 110 million deal with Kevin Gausman, sources told Passan.

Ray, 30, had long been one of the toughest left-handed starters in the majors and led the NL with 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings, while, with the Diamondbacks in 2017, a season in which he made his only appearance in the All-Star Game. His career strikeout rate of 11.21 per nine innings is also the highest ever among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings, ahead of his contemporaries Chris Sale, Yu Darvish and Jacob deGrom. While his striking prowess has never been questioned, his control was always a weakness, as he entered 2021 with an average of 4.1 walks per nine innings, including disastrous results in 2020, when he struggled with an attempt to change his mechanics. .

It all finally came together in 2021. He worked out twice a day in the offseason and returned to a rope he had used in the minors. Most importantly, he threw strikes, ultimately confident that his stuff was good enough to live in the strike zone more often. His fastball speed improved from 92.4 mph in 2019 and 93.9 mph in 2020 to 94.8 mph, the highest since 2016, and his strike rate with his four-seam fastball improved from 58% to 70%. Greater endurance and better throwing efficiency also allowed him to pitch deeper into games and surpass his previous record for innings pitched by 19.

“It’s perseverance, being able to overcome those adversities,” Ray said after winning the Cy Young Award. “Mentally, I’m as tough as anyone. I feel like I push myself too hard to be great every time I go out. As for that, the mindset was always there, it was just about putting the physical stuff with the mindset.”

Ray began his career in the Washington Nationals organization and was traded to the Detroit Tigers, where he made his major league debut in 2014. He became the fifth member of that team to win a Cy Young Award, joining Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander. , David Price. and Rick Porcello. Like those four others, Ray now gets his own big payday.

While 2021 may turn out to be a professional season, one reason to believe that Ray can maintain a high level of success is a strong health story. Aside from wasting time in 2018 with oblique strain and a few starts in 2017 after being hit by a line drive, he has been injury free.

“I’m just looking to build on this, honestly, to keep getting better every day and moving toward even better things,” Ray said, receiving 29 of the 30 first-place votes for Cy Young.