After a nightmarish year in the Bronx, his first full season with the Yankees, right-hander Sonny Gray is among the majors’ most obvious trade candidates this winter. General manager Brian Cashman has made it known the Yankees are aiming to move Gray, who has drawn plenty of interest this offseason. Along with the previously reported Athletics and Padres, teams that are eyeing Gray include the Braves, Rangers and Twins, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
Any team that picks up Gray would be taking on a rental, as 2019 will be the 29-year-old’s final arbitration-eligible campaign. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Gray to earn $9.1MM, which may look steep for a pitcher who failed to maintain a spot in the Yankees’ rotation for all of last season and only managed a 4.90 ERA across 130 1/3 innings (30 appearances, 23 starts). However, ERA estimators such as FIP (4.17), xFIP (4.10) and SIERA (4.28) suggest Gray deserved better in the run prevention department in 2018, and while he did issue a high number of walks (3.94 per nine), he also posted quality strikeout (8.49 K/9) and groundball (50 percent) rates. Moreover, Gray’s struggles were mostly limited to the Bronx, as he logged a horrendous 6.98 ERA/5.98 FIP at home and a terrific 3.17 ERA/2.65 FIP on the road. Historically, Gray has been closer to the pitcher he was away from Yankee Stadium last season, as his 3.66 ERA and 3.74 FIP over 900 combined 2/3 innings with the A’s and Yankees demonstrate.
Of the newly listed teams pursuing Gray, the Rangers stand out as the club likely to have the most difficult time making the playoffs next season. Not only are the Rangers a rebuilding team stuck in a division with the Astros, A’s, Mariners and Angels, but they’re ridiculously thin on starting pitchers and may soon deal their No. 1 option, Mike Minor. It would be a surprise to see Texas come out on top in the race for Gray, then, while the other teams seem like more plausible landing spots.
The reigning NL East champion Braves have shown past interest in Gray – albeit with different front office leadership than they have now – and need to replace free agent Anibal Sanchez, who was unexpectedly one of their best starters in 2018. And though the Braves seem to have the payroll room to aim higher than Gray, general manager Alex Anthopoulos has suggested they’re hesitant to dish out expensive long-term deals at this juncture. Therefore, it makes sense that the Braves are interested in Gray, who’d be a relatively low-risk addition.
Minnesota, unlike Atlanta, disappointed last season, taking several steps backward after earning a playoff spot in 2017. The Twins are in a division that may be there for the taking, though, so the right moves this offseason could make the team serious AL Central contenders next year. In Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda (who missed all of last season), the Twins already have four established starters under control for next season. However, they’re lacking another proven hurler along the lines of Gray, who’d seemingly slot in ahead of the likes of Fernando Romero, Adalberto Mejia, and Stephen Gonsalves – a trio which has combined for 203 innings and 40 starts in the majors.