Cincinnati Reds: Why Robbie Ray could be a buy-low free agent signing

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 06: Robbie Ray #38 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 06: Robbie Ray #38 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Robbie Ray could be a buy-low option that would bolster the Reds rotation.

The Cincinnati Reds have three locks for their starting rotation next year. Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray are established front-line starters and Tyler Mahle emerged as a solid starter for the club last year. After a shaky 2020 campaign, could Robbie Ray be a buy-low addition to the Reds rotation next season?

Cincinnati has other options to help fill out the 2021 starting rotation. Of course, the Reds could attempt to re-sign their best pitcher and one of the best in baseball in Trevor Bauer. Wade Miley who is in the final year of his contract, will likely find his way into a starting role as well.

Anthony DeSclafani, may still be on the Reds radar, but it remains to be seen if Cincinnati attempt to bring him back after a shaky 2020. Michael Lorenzen could be moved from the bullpen into a starting role as well. But, could the Reds go after a free agent pitcher? The 29-year-old Robbie formerly of the Nationals, Tigers, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays could be a nice fit.

To put it lightly, Ray really struggled in 2019. In a contract year, he put up a 7.84 ERA in seven starts with Arizona before being dealt at the deadline to Toronto, where he had a 4.79 ERA in four starts.

All in all, Ray put up a 2-5 record with a 6.62 ERA in 11 starts (51.2 IP) while striking out an impressive 68 but allowing a staggering 45 walks. Simply put, a 7.8 BB/9 is not going to get the job done. He has struggled with control for his entire career, but has strung out a nice “effectively wild” career.

Ray’s best year was an All-Star season in 2017 where he dominated, going 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA and striking out 218 in 162 innings, which gives you 12.1K/9 which is very rare for starting pitchers. Ray has been an above average pitcher in the majors, compiling an ERA+ above 104 during four separate seasons.

Ray is a perfect fit for the Reds for a variety of reasons. He can work with Derek Johnson, Kyle Boddy, and others that have taken a new-age pitching approach with the Reds pitching staff. The coaches have helped turn around the careers of Sonny Gray, Amir Garrett, and even Tyler Mahle. I think with Ray’s elite-level stuff that he could take a similar route is the aforementioned.

Ray will come at a much lower cost than some of the established starters. He will have trouble finding a multi-year deal, and could gamble on a one year “prove it” deal in order to re-establish himself as one of the best strikeout artists in the game. The Reds likely not going to break the bank for anyone but Trevor Bauer, Ray makes a whole lot of sense from a salary perspective.

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Lastly, as a verteran, Ray likely wants to play for a contender. Most would agree the Cincinnati Reds underperformed last season, and with (hopefully) a full 162-game schedule next year, they have pieces to be a lot better than they were in 2020. If the Reds can somehow re-sign Bauer and pull off a move to bring Ray to Cincinnati, I think this Reds team will be significantly better in 2021.