In Ray’s case, the Blue Jays struck gold on a one-year, $8 million deal early last offseason. Ray had joined Toronto via trade late in 2020, but was coming off a season in which he struggled with control. The Blue Jays liked what they saw down the stretch, though, and bet on Ray’s upside, which has always been tantalizing given his physical gifts.
It all came together for Ray in 2021 as he attacked the strike zone, leaning almost entirely on his fastball and slider. Ray pitched to a 2.84 ERA over 193 1/3 innings, including a league-leading 248 strikeouts, and surpassed Hyun Jin Ryu to cement himself as the Blue Jays’ ace by the end of the season. Most impressive was Ray’s incredible consistency throughout the year, routinely giving the Blue Jays quality starts that their talented offense typically cashed in on.
Rivaling Ray’s contract for the sharpest move of the 2020-21 offseason was Semien, who came to the Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million deal after starring in Oakland. This was the perfect example of a shared risk that worked out for both sides, as the Blue Jays got a season of elite production out of Semien, and the 31-year-old set himself up brilliantly for another run at free agency.
Semien slid over to second base for Toronto with Bo Bichette at shortstop, where Semien had played for the majority of his MLB career. The result? A Gold Glove Award, as Semien looked immediately at home. From the bottom of the Blue Jays’ roster to the top of their front office, Semien was praised for his leadership and work ethic.
Where Semien starred, though, was at the plate. Semien set a new AL/NL record for home runs by a second baseman with 45, driving in 102 runs with an .873 OPS along the way. This earned him a Silver Slugger Award alongside Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernández. Add in fellow All-Star Bichette and a healthy George Springer, and the Blue Jays had one of baseball’s most feared lineups for several stretches in 2021.
If either Ray or Semien sign elsewhere this offseason, the Blue Jays will receive Draft compensation. Under the 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires on Dec. 1, Toronto would receive a compensatory pick coming after Competitive Balance Round B in the 2022 MLB Draft.