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Cubs free agent target: Jon Gray

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The Cubs could have drafted him in 2013. He might be a good pickup now.

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Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Since it’s a gray day in Chicago and I’ve already run one article on a Gray pitcher today, why not another one?

The Cubs could have drafted Jon Gray in 2013. Had the Astros chosen Kris Bryant with the No. 1 pick instead of Mark Appel, would the Cubs have selected Gray? My guess is no; at the time Theo Epstein & Co. were focused on bats and likely would have picked someone like Clint Frazier or Austin Meadows.

Instead, of course, the Cubs did get Bryant and the Rockies chose Gray with the next pick. (Curiosity: The pick after Gray was Kohl Stewart, by the Twins.)

Gray has now pitched parts of seven seasons with the Colorado Rockies and the results are, uh, underwhelming. He’s made 30+ starts in a season just once (in 2018) and missed considerable time in other years with injuries.

On the other hand, he seems healthy now and just turned 30. Here’s what MLB Trade Rumors says about Gray:

Front offices are likelier to be more attracted to what’s under the hood than his surface-level 4.59 ERA. The bet here is that teams will look past the up-and-down nature of Gray’s career and view him as an upside play who’ll thrive away from Coors Field and with more robust information and data at his disposal. Gray is a former No. 3 overall pick who averages 95 mph or better on his heater. He’s better than league-average in terms of strikeout rate, walk rate and ground-ball rate for his career, with promising swinging-strike rates on a near-yearly basis. Some teams will believe they can turn Gray into a slam-dunk playoff starter.

The “thrive away from Coors Field” is something said about almost every pitcher who leaves the Rockies. Thing is, Gray’s numbers home and road thus far in his career are nearly identical:

Home: 75 appearances (74 starts), 4.54 ERA, 1.284 WHIP, 55 HR in 416⅓ innings
Road: 77 starts, 4.65 ERA, 1.393 WHIP, 50 HR in 412⅓ innings

Want more?

Home: .257/.315/.422, 415 strikeouts in 1,773 PA
Road: .263/.334/.430, 434 strikeouts in 1,783 PA

It just doesn’t get more even than that. Gray is, apparently, who he is at this stage of his career. If healthy, he’s a decent inning-eater. The velocity as noted by MLBTR is intriguing, to be sure. How much would Gray cost?

Last summer, after the Rockies didn’t deal him at the deadline, Gray rejected a three-year extension offer said to be in the $35-$40 million range. The Rockies then declined to make him a qualifying offer.

MLBTR says four years, $56 million for Gray. He made $6 million in 2021 and all told, his numbers this past season were worth 1.6 bWAR, which certainly isn’t terrible.

I’d go along the lines of four years, $52 million — $1 million less base salary per year — and put incentives in the contract so if he met them he’d get to that $56 million benchmark. This would give the Cubs Gray’s age 30 through 33 seasons.

Who says no?

Poll

Jon Gray...

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    ... the Cubs should sign him to a contract like the one proposed in the article
    (216 votes)
  • 5%
    ... the Cubs should sign him, but it will cost more in dollars or years or both
    (34 votes)
  • 60%
    ... the Cubs should not sign him
    (408 votes)
  • 1%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (11 votes)
669 votes total Vote Now