MLB Trade Rumors: Buzz Surrounding Sonny Gray and Top Players Available
The 2020 MLB winter meetings are just a couple days away, and this next week should provide the first real burst of offseason activity after the non-tender deadline on Wednesday.
Some teams will be buyers. Others have hinted at selling. Low-payroll clubs might even see what kind of value they can get for star players so as to cut cost amid the ongoing pandemic.
In any case, the proceedings this week will offer a window into what various clubs will look to accomplish and how they will bolster their teams with impact players or prospects for the future. The trade market will be especially notable in that regard.
Here are some of the latest rumors involving Cincinnati Reds right-hander Sonny Gray, in addition to the Chicago Cubs' willingness to trade backstop Willson Contreras and Philadelphia Phillies infielder Jean Segura being a potential target for multiple teams.
Reds 'Working Hard' to Trade Sonny Gray
The Cincinnati Reds appear to be a mover and a shaker when it comes to starting pitching this winter.
National League Cy Young Award-winner Trevor Bauer is a free agent and, while the Reds would undoubtedly love to re-sign him, is likely to command the biggest contract on the market in terms of annual average value (AAV). Meanwhile, Cincy is also working on dealing another key arm.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported last month the Reds were "open" to dealing right-hander Sonny Gray. That openness has apparently become more serious, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the Reds are "working hard" to trade Gray while still scoping out free-agent starting pitchers.
It certainly would be an interesting strategy for the Reds to deal one of their top arms while spending on free agents, considering the somewhat depressed nature of the starting pitching market this year. Simultaneously, Cincinnati needs assets in the pipeline, and Gray would likely net the Reds a big haul.
The 31-year-old has had a strong two-year run in Cincinnati thus far. Gray was an All-Star in 2019, posting a 2.87 ERA in 31 starts. While his ERA rose to 3.70 this year, Gray's fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark fell from 3.42 in 2019 to 3.05 in 2020, which is encouraging for evaluators thinking about acquiring him.
Moreover, Gray has an incredibly friendly contract. He is owed just over $20 million over the course of the next two years, per Spotrac, with a $12 million club option in 2023. That kind of club control is immensely valuable, and the dollar amount makes Gray a bargain when compared with his production.
The Reds might hope to get a huge return for Gray while working around the edges to sign other bullpen arms and fill their hole at shortstop. Perhaps Cincinnati feels that is the best way to remain competitive in 2021 while also planning for the future.
Cubs Open to Dealing Willson Contreras
The Chicago Cubs are a team with their eye to the future. New president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said so himself in a recent press conference, per Russell Dorsey of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Chicago has already hinted the roster will look much different this year after it non-tendered left fielder Kyle Schwarber on Wednesday. Schwarber might otherwise have been a trade candidate, but he hit just .188 with a .701 OPS in 2020. Given his defensive struggles and the fact he would be a free agent in 2022, he was unlikely to have a ton of interest from rival clubs.
The same might be said for Kris Bryant. Chicago is likely to have a fairly high asking price for the former National League MVP, which is within its rights. Bryant ranked third in baseball in fWAR between 2015 and 2019, per FanGraphs.
However, the former No. 2 overall pick is coming off a career-worst year (.644 OPS) during which he dealt with more injury issues and saw his power zapped.
Bryant is also estimated to make $18.6 million in his final year of arbitration, per Spotrac, which is a pretty hefty sum given recent performance and the current financial state of the game.
One Cub sure to have plenty of value is Willson Contreras.
The Venezuelan continued to establish himself as one of the best catchers in baseball in 2020. Contreras' OPS dropped over 100 points, but he still posted a .763 mark and showed marked improvement behind the dish.
Contreras threw out 35 percent of would-be base-stealers. More importantly, he improved his framing techniques, ranking 11th in pitch-framing in 2020, per Baseball Savant.
Sherman reported the Cubs are "very open" to trading Contreras, which only makes sense.
Teams almost always need catching; it has become a premium position in today's game, hence why J.T. Realmuto is about to reset the market. The Cubs could get a lot for the 28-year-old Contreras, who is under club control for two more seasons.
The Tampa Bay Rays might be a team to watch in Contreras' market, considering they have a wealth of young pitching assets and the Cubs desperately need arm talent in their pipeline. The New York Mets might also make overtures, though they have a shortage of farm assets to offer.
Jean Segura Garnering Interest
The Philadelphia Phillies are somewhere between buyers and sellers entering the winter meetings, though they have yet to officially hire a new general manager after Matt Klentak resigned.
Philadelphia could have an early opportunity to sell, however.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Phillies infielder Jean Segura has drawn some trade chatter, with Robert Murray of FanSided adding the Toronto Blue Jays are among the teams thought to be interested.
Segura has bounced around the league quite often. He was an All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013 and led the National League in hits in 2016 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Dominican native was then an All-Star with the Seattle Mariners in 2018 before the M's traded him to Philadelphia, where has has posted a .276/.329/.421 slash line in two years with the Phillies.
Segura is appealing in that he is a guy who can play multiple positions and also brings a high contact rate to go along with the ability to steal bases. He would make sense for the Blue Jays if they want to possibly move Cavan Biggio to the hot corner after they non-tendered third baseman Travis Shaw.
Toronto might be especially interested given Segura, despite a mixed track record with the glove, ranked in the 99th percentile in outs above average this past season, per Baseball Savant.
Segura is under contract through 2022, per Spotrac, with a $17 million club option for 2023. As is the case with Gray, that kind of club control could make Segura a valuable chip for the Phillies in speaking with clubs hoping to improve the middle infield.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.