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Ex-Blue Jay Robbie Ray heads West to join Mariners on reported 5-year deal

Reigning American League Cy Young winner has agreed to a five-year, $115-million US contract with the Seattle Mariners, according to multiple media reports.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic were the first to report the deal.

Ray had a 13-7 record for the Toronto Blue Jays this past season with a 2.84 earned-run average and 248 strikeouts over 193.1 innings pitched.

His ERA was the best in Major League Baseball while his innings pitched and strikeout totals were the best in the American League.

That year was a sharp turnaround after a dismal 2020 when he led the majors in walks and went 2-5 with a 6.62 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Blue Jays during the pandemic-shortened season.

The reports of Ray leaving the Blue Jays come a day after the Associated Press reported that Toronto had reached an agreement on a five-year, $110-million contract with right-hander Kevin Gausman.

Ray is the second pitcher from Toronto’s 2021 staff to depart in free agency. The St. Louis Cardinals and Steven Matz on Monday finalized a four-year deal worth $44 million.

Mariners’ new ace

And according to reports on Sunday, Marcus Semien has agreed to a seven-year pact with Texas worth $175 million after one stellar year in Toronto in which he was named a finalist for the AL most valuable player award.

In Seattle, Ray immediately becomes the ace of the Seattle staff. Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert are also under contract for the 2022 season for an ascending Mariners team that went 90-72 last season and barely missed snapping the club’s 20-year playoff drought.

It’s the second major move of the off-season by the Mariners and probably not the last one. Seattle acquired the second baseman, Adam Frazier, in a trade with San Diego on Saturday, the first in a series of moves the Mariners believe will make them a contender in the AL.

A chunk of what Seattle had available to spend on free agents is going to Ray, who turned 30 on Oct. 1.

Ray made his major league debut with Detroit in 2014 and grew into a top starter during five full seasons in Arizona. Ray was an all-star in 2017 when he went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 218 strikeouts.

So far, Ray has been durable, making at least 28 starts in four of the past five 162-game seasons. The only season he didn’t make at least 28 starts came in 2018 with the Diamondbacks.

Matz finalizes deal with Cardinals

Steven Matz and the Cardinals finalized a $44 million, four-year contract Monday, giving St. Louis the shutdown left-hander it desperately sought for a rotation that otherwise returns intact next season.

Another former Blue Jays hurler, Matz received a $2 million signing bonus, payable within 30 days of the deal’s approval by the commissioner’s office, and salaries of $8 million next season, $10 million in 2022 and $12 million each in 2023 and 2024.

He can earn $1 million annually in performance bonuses for innings pitched: $200,000 each for 130, 140, 150, 160 and 170. Matz also can earn $50,000 for winning the Cy Young and $25,000 for finishing second through fifth in the voting, $25,000 if he is voted AL Championship Series MVP and $50,000 for World Series MVP.

The 30-year-old Matz, who is originally from Long Island, spurned the Mets to sign with a National League rival. He pitched for New York from 2015-20 before he was traded last January to Toronto, where his career-best 14-7 record and 3.82 ERA in 29 starts for the Blue Jays made him a coveted starting pitcher in free agency.

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