MLB Rumors: Top 2017 Trade Reports on Sonny Gray and More

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJuly 30, 2017

Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray works against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 19, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline arrives on Monday at 4 p.m. ET, and there is a lot that remains to be settled. 

All of the attention leading up to the deadline revolves around pitching. Specifically, two American League West starters in Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics and Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers. 

The A's know they are in a rebuilding phase, entering Sunday's game against the Minnesota Twins with the AL's second-worst record, and would do well to find a trade partner for Gray now rather than run the risk of having him potentially injure himself in August or September to diminish his trade value. 

The Rangers are part of a large AL cluster sitting under .500 but are theoretically in the wild-card race because no one has been able to pull away from the pack. They could turn things around in the final two months of the regular season, but Darvish's looming free agency makes it difficult to wait.

Looking at where the trade winds are blowing, here's what to expect in the time remaining before the clock runs out on non-waiver trading. 

       

The Gray Market

Because he has two years of team control left after 2017, Gray is the most valuable trade asset on the market. The 27-year-old has a 3.43 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 97 innings, including a 0.98 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break. 

What isn't clear is whether Gray will be moved—or just how many teams are in on the bidding. 

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers are "not significantly involved" in discussions with the A's. 

The New York Yankees appear to still be discussing Gray, though FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reported the Athletics have asked for packages that include either outfielder Clint Frazier or shortstop Gleyber Torres. 

Among that group of suitors, the Yankees make the most sense as Gray's landing spot. Their starting rotation ranks ninth in MLB, with a 4.16 ERA, but Michael Pineda is out for the season and Masahiro Tanaka, who can opt out of his deal after this season, has a 5.09 ERA. 

New York's rebuilding project has progressed at a faster pace than expected, which adds to Gray's value to the team because he can influence this year's pennant race and lead a formidable tandem atop the rotation next season with Luis Severino.

The Yankees have excellent depth in the outfield, with Aaron Judge already a star in the big leagues. Dustin Fowler and Estevan Florial both rank among MLB.com's top 100 prospects, so they could build a deal around Frazier without significantly affecting their future outfield mix. 

       

Rangers Set Darvish Price

While the Rangers have yet to trade  Darvish, they have established a market for teams to work with if they want to acquire the right-hander.

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Friday the Rangers asked the Los Angeles Dodgers for a package that included right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler or outfielder Alex Verdugo. 

Things get tricky with that asking price, though. Buehler and Verdugo rank as the top two prospects in the Dodgers' farm system, and both players are in the top 30 prospects overall with MLB.com

Heyman reported Friday that even though Darvish is Los Angeles' "preferred pitching target," the team isn't likely to surrender one of its top prospects to make a deal. 

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand added to the Dodgers' discussion on Saturday, reporting they were doing more "bargain hunting" because they don't want to part with any of their top prospects. 

Darvish has game-changing stuff on the mound. The 30-year-old is averaging 9.72 strikeouts per nine innings, but he's also sporting a career-high 4.01 ERA and is allowing a career-worst 1.31 home runs per nine innings.

Another problem for the Rangers as they seek a huge return for Darvish is he would only be a two-month rental. He can become a free agent this offseason and could command a big multiyear deal. 

If Darvish were in a situation like Gray's, with multiple years of control left, a team like the Dodgers could justify building a package around one of their top two prospects.

Darvish also has a limited no-trade clause that includes the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays, per Rosenthal

From that group, the only contending teams are the Red Sox, Cubs, Indians and Rockies. The Cubs are the only team with a reported interest in Darvish, though they made a big splash to acquire Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox earlier in July. 

The Dodgers may be able to wait out this market since controllable assets are exponentially more valuable than rental players. They could have a need for another starter, depending on how long Clayton Kershaw's back injury keeps him out of action.

The Rangers are in a bad position with Darvish. They have no reason to keep him because they are three games under .500 and fading, but his impending free agency and erratic performance in 2017 make it hard to get the moon for a talented starting pitcher. 

      

Justin Wilson in Demand

As the Detroit Tigers continue their descent in the American League Central, Justin Wilson's trade market seems to increase. 

Per Feinsand, there are still "several teams" keeping an eye on Wilson leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. 

Among the list of Wilson's reported suitors are the Yankees, Astros, Indians, Cubs, Red Sox and Washington Nationals. In other words, essentially every major contender in both leagues.

This does put the Tigers in an enviable position of leveraging offers from each of them to take the one that benefits them the most.

Heyman reported Thursday the Brewers, Astros and Red Sox were "thought to be the leaders" for Wilson. Trade discussions are always fluid, so even rumors or reports from 72 hours ago could be drastically outdated. 

Wilson does have the added benefit of one more year under team control before he can become a free agent in the winter of 2018. The 29-year-old southpaw is having a fantastic season, with a 2.75 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 21 hits allowed in 39.1 innings. 

He's been terrific against hitters from both sides of the plate this season. Lefties have posted a .633 OPS against him, and right-handed hitters have fared worse with a .531 OPS, per Baseball Reference.

Because the leash gets tightened for starting pitchers in the postseason, relievers occupy a bigger spotlight in the most important games. Being able to shorten games with a dominant bullpen can carry a team far.

The Indians used that formula to great success last October, with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen often working multiple innings each night. 

Wilson shouldn't net the Tigers as much of a return compared to what the Yankees received from the Indians and Cubs last year for Miller and Aroldis Chapman, respectively. He doesn't have the same track record of success they did.

That's not to say he wouldn't be a difference-maker at the back of a bullpen for any of those interested contenders.

Among the list of suitors, the Nationals make the most sense simply because of their need. They did take steps to address the bullpen by acquiring Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the A's, but adding a third piece to the equation would help close the gap to the Dodgers in the National League.

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