Q: What’s the one thing every single franchise in Major League Baseball desires?
A: Really productive players that cost a fraction of what they would on the open market.
As we enter the first full offseason of MLB front offices dealing with pandemic-induced cost-cutting, you can expect to hear many rumors and idea like what we’re about to get into below. Any team that’s fortunate enough to have a player signed to a deal that seems like a steal relative to what he’d cost if instantly an unburdened free agent will undoubtedly be linked with ‘listening’ on said player, and frankly, they’d be negligent if they didn’t do so.
For the Cincinnati Reds, one such player is pitcher Sonny Gray, who has been positively brilliant since being acquired from the New York Yankees and inked to a savvy extension some two years ago. So, as teams look to pinch every penny possible in these austere fanless times, it’s not at all a surprise to hear that other franchises would be interested in acquiring his services.
If you’re the Reds, you listen. Of course you listen. There’s a price for everything, and even if you set it ridiculously high, it’s part of the process to listen, since you simply never know if and when a team out there is ready and willing to overpay. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to hear that the Reds, fresh off a record payroll, are willing to listen on Sonny Gray trade ideas. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal relayed that late Monday evening.
More notes! Reds open to trading Sonny Gray; details of Blue Jays’ run at Gausman; additional suitors for LeMahieu? https://t.co/UzCHwwvyIZ— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 24, 2020
The Reds are already about to lose a pitcher entering an over-30 season fresh off a 126 ERA+ over the last two seasons combined. That’s Trevor Bauer, who you’ll recall entered free agency fresh off the first Cy Young Award in Reds history. And when you consider the crazy potential contract offers being thrown around to sign him long term, it’s worth recognizing that Gray - also a freshly over-30 pitcher who’s pitched to a 153 ERA+ over the last two seasons - is under contract for what could amount to a max of 3 years and ~$33 million, with a team option baked into that deal that could make it even more team friendly.
In other words, while Gray isn’t nearly as desired as Bauer at the moment, he’s a damn fine pitcher on a team friendly deal, and that’s got a pile of trade value at the moment.
Factor in that the Reds need a shortstop and have the Driveline folks developing the next great wave of pitchers (fingers crossed), and the idea of listening does at least make a tad bit of sense.
Rosenthal’s report doesn’t necessarily suggest the Reds are hell-bent on moving Gray, but merely that the front office - now headed by Nick Krall - are willing to listen, which is only prudent. That’s not an indication that the Reds are looking to sell off all assets and go cheap, either - just look at the litany of high-priced players the Los Angeles Dodgers have moved while also contending in recent years to get a gist of what the best teams with the best talents do to try to win while managing all input costs.
It would certainly take a haul for the Reds to bite, to be sure. Part of why Gray signed with the Reds in the first place was his familiarity with pitching coach Derek Johnson from his Vanderbilt days as well as a known affinity for the Reds from his days growing up in roughly nearby Nashville. But if the Reds were bowled over by an offer - that does happen sometimes, after all - it would behoove the Reds to at least be willing to listen, and that’s certainly what this appears to be.
The Reds once gave up the likes of Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, and Edinson Volquez for three years of control of a rock solid starting pitcher. Don’t forget that Fernando Tatis, Jr. was once whisked away in a deal for James Shields. Sonny Gray is a brilliant pitcher with a pile of promise still in his right arm, but simply refusing to even listen might well shut off the Reds from a deal that could transform a franchise, in the right scenario.
And if that deal doesn’t materialize? Well, then you simply do not trade your stud pitcher. That’s where the Reds are at the moment, though that doesn’t do anything to dilute the anticipation for what could end up a move-heavy offseason all winter.