Yesterday, Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein went on 670 the Score to discuss a range of items surrounding his ball club.
Eventually, he was asked if and how the Cubs expected to improve at the upcoming trade deadline, and Epstein suggested that the Cubs are staying vigilant – because they know there are holes to fill – but that the team was purposefully shying away from rentals this time around.
Given the premium paid for pitching (both in general and especially at the deadline) and the Cubs needs (both this season and beyond), Epstein is understandably unwilling to pay top dollar for a pitcher with less than multiple years of control. Fortunately, there are more than a few options theoretically available this summer, so he could still have some flexibility and leverage to make a move.
One such (often discussed) option is Sonny Gray.
The Cubs were connected to Sonny Gray earlier this season, when Buster Olney suggested that they might be one of three teams (along with the Astros and Yankees) who would be interested in controllable arms like Chris Archer, Jose Quintana, Gerrit Cole, and Gray. Obviously, a Cubs trade for either Quintana (White Sox) and Cole (Pirates) present significant challenges, but Gray remained a distinct possibility.
At the time (this was back in May), we decided that we’d simply monitor the situation to see if he’d be available, healthy, and productive. Well, almost exactly two months later, the A’s are in last place (available), Gray’s made 11 straight starts (healthy), and his 3.38 xFIP ranks eleventh in all of baseball for pitchers with at least 60 IP (productive).
So at a minimum, Gray should still technically be an option for the Cubs this deadline. But will he be?
Well, as a matter of fact, Susan Slusser at the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Cubs were among four teams with “multiple executives and scouts” at Gray’s start on Sunday. Those four teams include the Cubs, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Braves (the Red Sox were also there, but had just one scout in attendance).
And then, at Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan has a dump of Sonny Gray rumors – which he expects to intensify over the next month. Passan writes that Gray is the “belle of the trade-season ball” this year, but it’s becoming clear that the Yankees, Astros, and Cubs are not the only teams heavily invested. He, too, suggests that the Red Sox are keen for Gray, and that when their president, Dave Dombrowski, targets someone the price tends to get skyrocket very quickly.
Even still, Passan notes that the Cubs have made the acquisition of someone like Gray, 27, a priority. After all, he’s having a nice bounce back year and is under relatively cheap (arbitration) control for 2018 and 2019. That the Cubs have made targeting a player of his caliber and contract status a priority should come as no surprise.