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Stripling Returning to Blue Jays May Not Be Simple

The Toronto Blue Jays should be looking to bring Ross Stripling back in 2023 and beyond, but it may not be so simple


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The Blue Jays have to be very pleased with what they’ve seen from Ross Stripling during his time in Toronto. He has filled just about every pitching role for them over that time and now has become one of the more stable forces the Blue Jays have. It would make so much sense if Toronto would offer him an extension that keeps him around for a few more years. However, the potential possibilities for this one aren’t so cut and dry.

 

When Toronto traded for Stripling in 2020, they were getting a guy who had had fairly decent success in LA, but had seen his performance slip. After a 2.2 fWAR and 1.9 fWAR seasons, Stripling had a 2020 season to forget. A Blue Jays team that is not shy about taking on what appear to be fixer-uppers perhaps thought there was something in Stripling and sent Kendall Williams and Ryan Noda to LA.

 

2021 saw a bit of a bounce back season for him as he finished with 101 innings of work, an ERA of 4.80, which had improved over the previous season, as had some of his other key metrics. But, when the 2022 season was approaching, we still didn’t really have a clear picture of what his role might look like. The front office went out and added Yusei Kikuchi, which bumped Stripling out of the 5th starter spot.

 

However, as we head into the final weeks of the season, Stripling’s role has not only become clear, but become quite important to the fortunes of this Blue Jays’ team. And, while there is lots of baseball to be played, including some playoff games, a five day period after the World Series ends before teams can talk to free agents and allowing that anything can happen in that time, there are a few possible scenarios for Stripling’s return to Toronto.

 

Firstly, the club could simply extend him before the season ends. While this is the least likely scenario, it certainly would be the simplest. The Blue Jays know they will need starting pitching and they know what they have in Stripling…not to mention the fact that he has earned a bit of a reward. They could offer him a 2 or 3 year deal worth $45M (or in the $15M AAV neighbourhood), which would be a bit more that Kikuchi’s deal and Stripling has been more than a bit better than Kikuchi.

 

As Dan Shulman recently said, Stripling’s is 32 years old and entering free agency for the first time and he may want to test that aspect of the ‘business of baseball’. That means, the Blue Jays may have to pay extra to convince him to avoid that process entirely. If this doesn’t appeal to the club, they could offer Stripling a Qualifying Offer, which would be approximately south of $19M for one year’s service. If he accepts, he comes back for a year, if he doesn’t the Blue Jays get a pick. However, what is an even better idea is if, as Shulman suggests, the Blue Jays offer Stripling a two year deal that’s worth more than the QO, but has a lower AAV, something like the offer I mentioned above.

 

While this isn’t as simple as an extension would be and there are a lot of ifs and moving parts that we just don’t have an ability to answer yet. Still, it isn’t overly complicated. But, what IS complicated is if Ross Stripling hits free agency. Stripling has earned the right to do so and at 32 could be looking for his last contract, which means as much as he can get. Can’t blame him. But, what that means is that the business of improving the 2023 roster becomes a bit more complicated. While looking to improve upon an up and down roster, Ross Atkins may have to add Stripling to his plate…while others are standing in that line, trying to reach in front of him.

 

For a lot of fans, the decision to keep Ross Stripling in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform is a no-brainer, it’s simple. And, I’m sure if you ask Ross Atkins, he would say the same thing: ‘We want him back, absolutely.’ However, it won’t be that easy. There are several layers to this and as time goes on, we may get closer and closer to an outcome we may not like. As the days go by, the decision becomes that much more complicated.

 

 

 


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