Jon Gray has stood out as a potential trade candidate for months, and the Rockies indeed “began putting feelers out to teams regarding Gray during Spring Training,” according to FanSided’s Robert Murray. Gray is eligible for free agency after the season and has only improved his trade value by posting a 2.93 ERA/4.19 SIERA over 46 innings so far into the 2021 campaign.
There isn’t any sense that a deal could be particularly close, since teams usually don’t make major trades this far in advance of the July 30 trade deadline. In addition, the Rockies’ front office has also undergone a sea change since Spring Training, as Bill Schmidt took over as interim general manager earlier this month after Jeff Bridich resigned his GM post in late April.
While the GM change could make a Gray trade (and perhaps a wider-scale rebuild for the Rockies) more likely, it would count as a surprise if the right-hander was moved quite so early in the season. That said, as Murray notes, an aggressive team could benefit by landing Gray now, and Colorado would land a larger trade package if Gray was a “rental player” for more than just the last two months of the regular season.
Gray has rebounded well from a rough 2020 season that saw him spend a lot of time on the injured list due to shoulder inflammation, and post a 6.69 ERA over 39 innings. Looking at his 2021 numbers, that difference between his ERA and SIERA indicates that Gray’s performance hasn’t exactly been ace-level, as his strikeout (22.9%) and walk (9.9%) rates are both below average and he has enjoyed a .250 BABIP. On the plus side, Gray has done a very good job of limiting hard contact, and his usually-solid grounder rate has risen to a new career best of 53.7%.
Gray has pretty even home/road splits over his career, which is no mean feat considering his home ballpark is Coors Field. Interestingly, Gray has generally pitched better at home than on the road in recent years, including a startling split of a 2.00 ERA in 36 innings at Coors Field this season as opposed to a 6.30 ERA in 10 innings on the road. Granted, these are very small sample sizes, but Gray’s ability to pitch effectively in the thin air of Denver makes it intriguing to see how he would fare in a more normalized pitching environment.
Some executives, in fact, believe the Rockies should try to capitalize on Gray’s success at Coors Field and try to sign him to a contract extension. Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post also thinks extension talks are a possibility, but with an “emphasis on ’attempt,’ ” meaning that the likelihood of Gray signing a new deal seems pretty low, this close to his trip to the free agent market. Saunders ultimately believes Gray will be traded elsewhere prior to July 30.