Photo By: Lesly Juarez from Unsplash

For the second straight week there was big MLB news broken on a Tuesday, which is again, the worst day to break news for us at The Brock Press. Nevertheless, Wander Franco’s 12-year extension with the Tampa Bay Rays kicked off what was by far the busiest week of the offseason, with signings-a-plenty ahead of a potential transaction freeze.

Franco, who can’t legally drink in the U.S. for another three months, has guaranteed himself $185 million from the Rays with bonuses and options that could max out at $223 million, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. He only played in 70 games last year due to service time shenanigans and a hamstring injury, but the switch-hitter slashed .288/.347/.463 while playing phenomenal defence at short. He’s already a superstar, and it’s good to see the notoriously frugal Rays locking him up long term.

(Hello, it’s me from Sunday evening, where Marcus Semien just signed a whopping seven-year/$175 million contract with the Texas Rangers.) Semien is the first top-tier player to sign, and while it always seemed unlikely that he’d return to Toronto, the eager-to-spend Rangers gave him the motherload. Good for Semien, who bet on himself last year and parlayed that $18 million contract into $175 million. The AL West is slowly shaping up, and aside from Oakland who is tearing everything down, the other four teams should all be competitive, even if Houston runs away with the division yet again.

(Still me, now from Sunday night, after Kevin Gausman signed with Toronto for five-years/$110 million.) Hours after losing Semien to Texas, the Blue Jays made a big splash by landing one of the best pitchers on the market. Gausman, an AL East veteran from his five-plus years in Baltimore, has had a resurgence with San Francisco over the past two years and was one of only a few truly impactful starters in this free agent class.

This probably means that Robbie Ray is planning on signing elsewhere, and will most likely receive more money than Gausman, whatever that’s worth. Gausman is actually quite Ray-like in the sense that he is pretty much a two-pitch guy. His fastball hangs in the mid-90s, but it’s his splitter that is far and away his best pitch. Last year batters whiffed on it at a whopping 46 per cent clip and hit just .133 off it.

The fact that the Jays have a pitching core of Berríos, Gausman, and Manoah (and Nate Pearson) locked up for the next five years is an unbelievable feat, plus two more years of Hyun-Jin Ryu rounds out what should be a top-tier rotation in 2022 and beyond. Reports are that the Jays are also not yet done, as I’d think they’d want a few more options to round out the rotation and provide some always-necessary injury depth.

The Jays also signed right-handed reliever Yimi García to a two-year/$11 million contract in what was their first player acquisition of the winter. García spent time closing for Miami last year before being traded to Houston where he struggled for the Astros down the stretch. García was pretty much perfect in the shortened 60-game 2020 season, with an ERA of 0.60, and has the peripherals and stuff to be effective once again. He has a ton of spin on his fastball, averaging over 2500 rpm which puts him in the 95th percentile of all pitchers, and pairs it with a slider and curveball. I’d still put him in more of the middle innings category than the highest-leverage spots, but it’s a cheap contract for a guy who can be a big help to a bullpen that needs reinforcements.

In some older but still relevant news, last Wednesday was headlined by LHP Steven Matz signing a four-year/$44 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals after a very solid 2021 season with the Blue Jays. Based on the reports that have come out and reading between the lines, it seems that the Jays offered him three years with a similar AAV, but the Cards’ fourth year was the ultimate decider. I think it’s a great deal for Matz, who will pitch in front of a defence that just won five Gold Gloves while facing some of baseball’s most putrid lineups in the weak NL Central.

I think it was probably the right call for the Jays to not offer four years for Matz, who seems poised for a back of the rotation spot with a 4-ish ERA. That being said, I would’ve also been totally fine if they brought him back on a three-year/$33-ish million type of thing. As you can probably tell, I don’t feel too strongly one way or another. Hope he succeeds with the Cards.

Reports have said that both Gausman and García had bigger offers on the table, but still chose to come to Toronto instead. It was always the case that the Jays had to overpay to attract free agents, and now they’re getting marquee guys to leave money on the table to come here. It’s another testament to what an incredible job Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have done in building and developing what is quickly becoming one of the best organizations in the league.