Sonny Gray is on the trade market. No, that is not a typo. No, it’s not April 1st, either. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported late on Monday night that rival clubs report that the Cincinnati Reds are open to moving the All-Star starting pitcher.
There are a million questions here, almost all of them begin with the words Why would the Reds do this? Sonny Gray is among the best pitchers in the league. In his first season with Cincinnati after being acquired from the New York Yankees, Gray posted a 2.87 ERA in 175.1 innings and he was a National League All-Star. In 2020 his season was strong, outside of his first two starts in September where he allowed 11 runs in 4.0 innings that nearly doubled his season ERA. In his two seasons with Cincinnati he’s posted a 3.07 ERA over 231.1 innings with 277 strikeouts.
When he was brought to Cincinnati via trade he also signed an extension. That extension is about as good of a deal for a player that’s beyond arbitration in baseball, too. In 2021 the Reds owe Gray just over $10M. The same thing for 2022. And in the 2023 season they have a team option for $12M. Three years and just over $32M for one of the better pitchers in the league is an outright bargain.
One could make the argument that if Sonny Gray were paid like Max Scherzer, who is making $35M per year, that it could be possible to use that salary in a way that might (let’s stress might here) be a tad more productive. While pitchers certainly can and do get injured, it’s hard to look at the market and see how a team could go about planning a better way to spend the same money they owe to Gray and come out ahead of things instead of just giving it to Gray.
The Reds have lost assistant pitching coach Caleb Cotham this offseason. They almost assuredly are losing Trevor Bauer in free agency. Anthony DeSclafani is less likely to be lost to free agency simply because bringing him back won’t cost nearly as much – but like all free agents, they are far more likely to leave than to return.
So why would they also be interested in the idea of losing Sonny Gray, too? Well, it’s tough to make a lot of sense with that idea. But just because a team is willing to listen to offers doesn’t mean they are going to accept an offer. If an alien came down and took over the body of A.J. Preller, They Live style, and decided that a Sonny Gray for Fernando Tatis Jr. deal made sense, then you get that paperwork filed with MLB offices faster than a Billy Hamilton stolen base in 2013 happened.
Perhaps this particular writer just isn’t operating at full capacity at 1:15am as he writes this, but I am having a tough time finding a good deal that would make sense from both sides that would involve Sonny Gray being traded away. The return would have to be enormous for it to make any sense for the Reds to go for it. And given the make up of the team, it would also have to be rather specific, too – given the other players the team has locked up long term. That’s not to say the deal isn’t out there, but it’s tough to see. But hey – it’s 2020. Who knows what can happen?