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Blue Jays Sign Jose Berrios To Seven-Year Extension

The Blue Jays have signed an extension with star right-hander Jose Berrios, covering the 2022-2028 seasons, pending a physical. He will be guaranteed $131MM over the length of the deal. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected Berrios would earn just shy of $11MM for 2022 in his final trip through arbitration, meaning this extension effectively buys out six free agent years at $120MM, although the actual breakdown of the contract is not known at this point. Berrios will be able to opt out after the fifth year of the deal and has limited no-trade protection. There are also escalators in the deal that could increase the value of the contract by $10MM.

The 27-year-old was acquired from the Twins at July’s trade deadline, set to reach free agency after the 2022 season. Instead, the Blue Jays will keep him around for an extended stay, hoping that he anchors their rotation well into the future. This extension runs through 2028, which will be his age-34 season.

Prior to that trade, Berrios had spent his entire career in the Twins organization since they selected him in the supplemental first round of the draft in 2012, 32nd overall, out of Papa Juan High School in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He had just turned 18 years old at the time. He quickly rose through the ranks of the minors, making his debut in April of 2016, a month before his 22nd birthday. Although he struggled in that first taste of MLB action, he broke out in a big way the following season. In 2017, he logged 145 2/3 innings with an ERA of 3.89 and has been remarkably reliable and consistent since then. He made 32 starts in each of 2018, 2019 and 2021, throwing at least 192 innings each year along with an ERA between 3.52 and 3.84. He also made 12 starts in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, with his ERA at an even 4.00. In the five-year stretch from 2017 to 2021, he threw a total of 793 1/3 innings with an ERA of 3.74, strikeout rate of 24.4%, walk rate of 7% and groundball rate of 41.4%. His 15.4 fWAR in that time ranks 14th among all pitchers in baseball.

The Blue Jays clearly valued Berrios very highly based on the package they sent to the Twins, with both Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson being highly-touted prospects. At the time of the trade, Martin was only one year removed from being the 5th overall selection in the 2020 draft and was considered to be one of the top-25 prospects in the game by each of FanGraphs, Baseball America and MLB.com. Woods Richardson was not on Baseball America’s list but was 49th at FanGraphs and 68th at MLB.com. It was believed by many that this was a steep price to pay for a year and a half of Berrios’s services, but the Blue Jays have doubled down on their belief in him by locking him up for at least four more years on top of that.

This now ranks as one of the largest extensions ever for a starting pitcher between five and six years’ service time, trailing only the $215MM garnered by Clayton Kershaw, the $175MM by Stephen Strasburg and $144MM for Cole Hamels. If Berrios pitches well over the next five years, he can opt out after the 2026 campaign, which will be his age-32 season. That could give him the opportunity to hit free agency and land another solid payday, after having already banked over $100MM in career earnings.

The Blue Jays had some long-term uncertainty in their rotation, with Berrios and Ross Stripling set to reach free agency after 2022 and Hyun-Jin Ryu after 2023, leaving youngsters like Alek Manoah and Nate Pearson as the only future options. Locking Berrios down through 2028 provides some much-needed stability as they look to complement that group this offseason.

The club’s 2022 payroll is currently sitting around $115MM, in the estimation of Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. Their opening day number in 2021 was $135MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, giving them about $20MM of space to work with before they reach last year’s number. However, the club may also increase spending this year, which would give them even more ability to supplement the roster. It’s unknown exactly how high they anticipate the budget to go between now and the spring, but they have run payrolls over $160MM in years past.

The club has already been connected in rumors to Justin Verlander, Andrew Heaney and Eduardo Rodriguez, the latter having signed with the Tigers yesterday. Despite winning 91 games in 2021, the Jays somehow finished fourth place in the AL East, one game away from a Wild Card berth. With Robbie Ray, Steven Matz and Marcus Semien all now free agents, the club still has work to do in order to stay afloat in that cutthroat environment. Extending Berrios doesn’t necessarily improve the 2022 club on paper, but it should serve as a signal to other free agents that the team is committed to do what it takes to be competitive for the foreseeable future.

Hector Jose Torres Donato (Twitter link) was the first to report the news of the seven-year extension. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet first had the $131 guarantee (Twitter link). Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported the opt-out and no-trade protection (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first mentioned escalators (Twitter link). Jon Heyman of MLB Network first reported the $10MM value of the escalators (Twitter link).

Image Courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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