We’re just a few weeks into the offseason, but the Jon Gray rumors are already taking us for a bit of an up-and-down ride.
What started as some speculative, passing interest in trading for the Rockies’ hard-throwing right-hander quickly blossomed into a Yeah, you and everyone else, pal! And just a few days later, we have some more twists and turns for you, including a direct Cubs link. But let’s work up to it, because there are some important stops along the way.
After Jon Morosi initially reported the relatively wide trade interest in Gray throughout the league – noting, specifically, the Padres as potential suitors – MLB.com’s Thomas Harding confirmed as much straight from the Rockies GM Jeff Bridich: “There are a number of teams asking about [Gray].” Cool. Confirmed.
Unfortunately, Bridich wouldn’t offer much more than that, so Harding was left to game out the Rockies’ intentions own his own, noting that, in recent history under Bridich (who took over in 2014), the Rockies have leaned towards more big extensions than big trades (Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, German Marquez).
With that said, the Rockies’ payroll was at a franchise-high $148.3M last season (9th most in MLB), with as much as $170M already committed for 2020. Implied point here being: since an extension just doesn’t seem financially plausible, trading Gray now, when there’s so much interest, might make the most sense.
So … turn on the stove and fire up some popcorn, right? Well, not so fast.
While some national media seems to believe the Rockies could lean into that confirmed trade interest enough to consummate a deal, one local beat writer isn’t so quick to give in.
On the surface, it makes no sense for the Rockies to trade Gray, who finished the season 11-8 with a 3.84 ERA. He was Colorado’s most dependable starter at home, going 6-2 with a 3.46 ERA. Indeed, heading into 2020, the Rockies’ only two dependable starters are German Marquez and Gray. So if the Rockies were to trade Gray, they would have to get a dependable starter, a right-handed bat and/or prospects in return. I don’t see it happening.
Here’s another question to ponder: Bridich is on the record as saying that the core of Colorado’s roster is strong and able to compete for a playoff spot, but would trading Gray signal that a rebuild is in order?
Okay, there’s a lot to work through there, but let’s take it one step at a time.
On the matter of it not making sense to trade Gray, I think he’s kinda wrong – at least, on that specific point. There’s no doubt that Gray was good last season, but that’s not a reason not to trade someone. In fact, in most cases, it spurs the opposite effect. Does anyone think Kris Bryant or Willson Contreras or Francisco Lindor or Mookie Betts is on the trade block this winter because they weren’t good? Of course not. And the circumstances surrounding Gray (an increasingly competitive NL West, an unsustainably high payroll, and a potentially all-time high on value/league interest in Gray) are all reasons the Rockies could consider dealing him.
Conceded counter-point: Nolan Arenado is still in his prime and Charlie Blackmon could still produce, so pushing the team while those pricey extensions are still productive isn’t a bad idea. But on the whole, I think the “trade him” reasons outweigh this alternative.
On Saunders’ latter point, I also disagree. I don’t think trading Gray would inherently signal a rebuild. Perhaps it might mean a step backwards in 2020, but I don’t really think that’s a bad idea either, given the expected strength of the Dodgers and clearly-pushing Padres (the Giants and Diamondbacks are probably not going to be doormats next season, either). So if the re-tooling for 2021 and beyond is helped by a trade of Gray, which it probably would be, given what they want in return, I think it would be wise to consider it. Again, especially because his value is at all-time high.
Which brings me to that point sandwiched in the middle there: the return.
Brett discussed what the Rockies might want to get back in such a deal before – from the same Patrick Saunders, as a matter of fact – but this proposed package is even clearer than before: “a dependable starter, a right-handed bat and/or prospects.”
Given the initially rumored return and this amped-up, but aligned update, it’s not entirely out-of-the-question that this is something Saunders has legitimately heard behind-the-scenes. However, perhaps the motive for whomever he’s hearing it from has a little more to do with trade leverage than strictly shutting down any such deal (especially when it’s coming from a local guy, who may be closer to the source than a national beat … it happens everywhere).
IN ANY CASE, let’s get back to the national lens, because that’s where we get our Cubs connection (via Jon Morosi, once again): “And the interest has already picked up in Jon Gray – he was talked about last week at the GM Meetings in Arizona. And a couple clubs to mention there: The San Diego Padres …. and then the Chicago Cubs.”
Beyond that, Morosi just explains why the Cubs might have interest in Gray – something we’ve dug into in the past – but that’s almost beside the point. Morosi has been on this rumor since the beginning and after initially highlighting only the Padres, he’s now throwing the Cubs into the ring. Speculation is one thing, but it’s reasonable to take this as him suggesting the Cubs do have existing interest in Gray.
We can go back and forth and whether it will or should happen, but it’s no basically impossible to argue that they’re not in the fold, given Morosi’s comment, and also just our knowledge of the Cubs’ current situation.
So I guess throw these Jon Gray rumors on your offseason docket of things to follow, alongside those Kris Bryant/Willson Contreras trade rumors, Obsessive Shogo Watch, the pipe dreams for Anthony Rendon, and a potential extension for Javy Baez.