Comfortable Berrios skips free agency to stay with Blue Jays

Two months with the Toronto Blue Jays was enough to make Jose Berrios change his mind about waiting one more year to reach free agency.,

Two months with the Toronto Blue Jays was enough to make Jose Berrios change his mind about waiting one more year to reach free agency.

Berrios officially agreed to a seven-year, $131-million deal to stay with the Blue Jays Thursday. In doing so, the 27-year-old right-hander passed up the opportunity to hit the open market next winter.

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A two-time All Star, Berrios said his decision was simplified by getting a brief taste of life in Toronto after the Blue Jays acquired him from Minnesota on July 30.

“That was enough to make this decision because of the way they treated me, the nice welcome they gave me,” Berrios said. “The way I spent my last two months of the season here made it more easy and comfortable to make this decision.”

Berrios went 5-4 with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts with Toronto, finishing 12-9 with a 3.52 ERA. The Blue Jays won 91 games, finishing one victory shy of a tie for a wild card berth in the competitive AL East.

An invigorated Berrios made it clear he didn’t want to fall short again in 2022.

“I can promise we’re going to do a lot of good things for the city,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of fun.”

Berrios struck out a career-high 204 batters over 192 innings in 2021. He is 60-47 with a 4.04 ERA in six big league seasons.

Berrios said his wife visited him in Toronto after he was traded last summer, but said his three kids hadn’t visited their new home until the deal was reached.

“They love the city,” he said. “They ask me every day if we’re going to play tonight.”

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Berrios has “one of the best reputations in baseball,” adding the contract represents “a very big moment for this organization.

“Beyond that talent and that competitiveness and execution that you see on the field is one of the best human beings in the game,” Atkins said of Berrios. “That is extremely powerful for this organization, what that means for players who will be his teammates today and in the future.”

Atkins said the Blue Jays started laying the groundwork for discussions on a new contract before the end of the regular season.

“When the season ended, it was one of the first phone calls we made,” Atkins said.

Berrios, who is from Puerto Rico, was taken 32nd overall by the Twins in the 2012 amateur draft. He has never been on the injured list in his six-year career, making 32 starts in each of the past three full seasons.

Atkins praised Berrios for being “as consistent as any professional athlete in the world.”

“The dependability, the reliability of someone like Jose is exceptionally powerful,” Atkins said. “We obviously value that a great deal.”

This is the third $100-million-plus deal in Blue Jays history and the second in as many winters — Toronto signed outfielder George Springer to a six-year, $150-million contract last offseason.

Still, Atkins insisted that signing Berrios would not prevent Toronto from pursuing other free agents, including left-hander Robbie Ray, who won the AL Cy Young with the Blue Jays this season, and slugging infielder Marcus Semien.

“We are committed to continue to build upon that core,” Atkins said.

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Outfielder Vernon Wells and the Blue Jays agreed to a $126 million, seven-year contract in 2006.

By pairing veterans such as Springer and Berrios alongside exciting young sluggers Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, Atkins said the emerging Blue Jays have seen a change in the way they’re perceived among free agents.

“Now we’re feeling like key players are courting us as much as we’re courting players,” Atkins said.

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