The Rockies have already begun their offseason work in earnest, hammering out contract extensions with Antonio Senzatela and C.J. Cron this afternoon. The front office has previously expressed interest in extending impending free agent Jon Gray as well, and that figures to be one of the next steps on the team’s priority list.
Colorado is still looking to work out a long-term deal with Gray, according to reports from Bob Nightengale of USA Today and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. However, Feinsand hears there hasn’t been any recent progress in talks with Gray’s representatives at CAA Sports.
The third overall pick in the 2013 draft, Gray has been a career-long Rockie. He broke into the majors in 2015 and has been a consistent member of the rotation over the years since, flashing mid-rotation ability at his best. The right-hander posted a sub-4.00 ERA with above-average strikeout rates in both 2017 and 2019, no small feat given that he calls Coors Field home.
Gray’s shortened 2020 campaign didn’t go according to plan. His velocity dropped two miles per hour and he was knocked around for a 6.69 ERA over eight starts before ending the year on the injured list due to shoulder inflammation. Gray entered 2021 as a bit of a question mark, but he bounced back from the down year to put together a nice season.
Over 149 innings, Gray worked to a 4.59 ERA with strikeout and walk rates (24.4% and 9%, respectively) both marginally higher than the league average. He racked up ground-balls at a strong 48.8% clip and induced swinging strikes on a solid 11% of his offerings. Gray also regained a tick on his average fastball after last season’s velocity dip, a trend that held even after he missed a bit of time in early September due to forearm tightness.
As today’s Senzatela extension demonstrates, the Rox front office is particularly keen on keeping pitchers who’ve demonstrated an ability to get outs in Denver’s high-altitude environment. Gray has put together strong home results (better than those he’s posted on the road, in fact) over the past couple seasons. Dating back to the start of 2019, he owns a 4.39 ERA/4.33 FIP over 178 1/3 innings at Coors Field. He’s allowed just 1.3 HR/9 and a .278 opponents’ batting average on balls in play in that time, avoiding the ills that plague most pitchers in that ballpark.
Of course, that Gray has had success at Coors Field doesn’t inherently mean he’ll continue to do so. But there’s at least proof of concept for the front office, and newly-minted general manager Bill Schmidt has seemingly made a concerted effort to keep the core of the current roster in the fold. The Rockies held onto Gray at the trade deadline, and while they could make him a qualifying offer and allow him to depart in free agency were he to decline, it seems likelier they’ll try to hammer out an extension before Gray ever hits the open market.