The Rockies have shut down right-hander Jon Gray for the season, manager Bud Black announced to reporters on today’s pregame Zoom call (Twitter link via Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post). Gray has been out since Sept. 2 due to inflammation in his right shoulder, and the team simply ran out of time to get him back up to strength to pitch out of the rotation or the ’pen, it seems.
That puts an end to what will go down as a brutal season for the 28-year-old Gray. Over the life of eight starts, the former No. 3 overall draft pick was clobbered to the tune of a 6.69 ERA and 5.07 FIP, averaging a career-worst 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Gray’s control was sharp (2.5 BB/9), but his 36.7 percent ground-ball rate was down nearly 14 percent from last year’s mark. His average fastball, which sat at 96.1 mph in 2019, was just 94 mph in 2020.
There was a case to be made for shopping Gray both at the 2019 trade deadline and again in the offseason, given the financial limitations the Rockies outwardly expressed even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the league with unforeseeable revenue losses. Owner Dick Monfort also expressed confidence in his team’s ability to rebound, however, going so far as to predict a 94-win season just before Spring Training began despite not adding any Major League talent over the winter. Given that outlook, it’s no surprise that the Rox held onto Gray and paid him a $5.6MM salary in his second trip through the arbitration process, but they’ll face a much more difficult call this winter.
The Rockies look to be on their way to another playoff miss and another sub-.500 season, and Gray will again be arbitration-eligible. Unlike last year when he was coming off a 3.84 ERA and 4.06 FIP with a strikeout per frame in 150 innings, Gray is due a raise after a shoulder injury contributed to the worst season of his career. And given the aforementioned revenue losses that have swept through the league, it’s at least worth wondering whether he’ll be tendered a contract. Much of that will depend on the extent of his shoulder troubles and his rehab outlook, of course.
If the Rockies believe he’ll be healthy in 2021, it seems more in line with this regime’s track record to keep Gray around — uncertainty or not. The Rockies, under Monfort and general manager Jeff Bridich, have persistently sought to put together winning clubs and shown considerable faith in their homegrown players even when they’ve struggled. Gray’s talent is obvious — he’s whiffed more than a batter per inning in the big leagues and has two sub-4.00 ERA seasons at Coors Field under his belt — but he’s also been prone to injuries and has lacked consistency.
With a shortened season and poor performance, he might not be in line for much of a raise at all — the Rockies, speculatively, could even seek a cut — which could make one final season worth the risk in the team’s eyes. Certainly, Gray’s upside justifies that roll of the dice under normal circumstances, but many have forecast aggressive non-tenders throughout MLB in the wake of this year’s revenue hit. Gray is presently on track to become a free agent following the 2021 season.