Could the D-backs look to trade for Oakland’s Sonny Gray?
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, the Diamondbacks have been mentioned in rumors surrounding a trade for former Cy Young finalist Sonny Gray.
Gray, a starting pitcher on the Oakland A’s, has frequently had his name appear as a trade candidate for Oakland ahead of the July 31 deadline. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand said Gray is considered the “most likely” player on the A’s to be dealt early. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that multiple teams have sent scouts to Gray’s starts.
And the A’s dealing the 27-year-old right-hander would stand to reason; As of July 3rd, Oakland is dead last in the American League and Gray, while having struggled the past two seasons, proved to be a capable major-league starter when he posted a 2.73 ERA as an All-Star in 2015.
So what does that have to do with the D-backs?
Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron linked Gray to the Diamondbacks in implying that he could serve as an arm at the back end of the bullpen for manager Torey Lovullo.
“It’s pretty rational to not trust Fernando Rodney, despite the fact that he already has 20 saves,” Cameron wrote.
While that statement may seem harsh for the closer who has a 0.44 ERA since the start of May, Rodney still carries a 4.45 ERA on the season and posted a 6.16 second-half ERA in 2016 after a 1.04 ERA in the first half (albeit, he was traded mid-season). With Rodney at 40 years young, it wouldn’t hurt the D-backs to add a late-inning arm.
“While Archie Bradley has been excellent in relief work this year, they might prefer to keep his multi-inning flexibility for earlier in the game,” Cameron continued. “With Zack Godley stabilizing the back of the rotation, they could theoretically believe that Gray would help them more in October as a multi-inning closer than as a starter who might only throw once in a five game series.”
STARTER OR RELIEVER?
So, if the D-backs got Gray, would it make sense to use him in the bullpen like Cameron suggested?
The past two years for Gray have been tumultuous, to say the least. After finishing in third place in AL Cy Young voting in 2015, the hurler pitched just 22 games in 2016 due to injuries to his trapezius and forearm. In those 22 games, he posted a 5.69 ERA. He also dealt with a lat injury earlier this year, but has since pitched 12 starts with a 4.09 ERA.
But just like how Bradley carried a 5.18 ERA as a starter in the big leagues before posting a 1.23 ERA this year from the bullpen, a stint in the bullpen could, perhaps, serve Gray and the D-backs well.
Still, Gray has pitched to a 3.52 ERA since the start of June, and his hypothetical trade to Arizona wouldn’t mark the first time D-backs GM Mike Hazen has taken an AL West pitcher and watched him pitch better (ironically) in the hitter-friendly Chase Field (see also: Taijuan Walker).
And if Hazen acquired Gray before the deadline with the intention of using him as a starter, perhaps it would be with a playoff rotation in mind.
In an-depth piece looking at fits for Gray across the league, Steve Adams wrote, “[the D-backs would] currently turn to one of Zack Godley, Patrick Corbin or Taijuan Walker as the third starter behind Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray in a playoff rotation.”
Godley, while brilliant thus far in 2017, has never pitched in the playoffs and has a career 4.36 ERA. Corbin has a 5.01 ERA since the start of 2016. And Walker, while he has a 3.30 ERA, has the highest WHIP (1.336) of his career this season.
Meanwhile, Gray has made two postseason starts in his career. In the first, he went eight shutout innings and allowed four hits with two walks. In the second start, he allowed three runs in five innings, earning the loss. Both of those were in the 2013 ALDS.
Ultimately, it may simply just not be feasible nor necessary for Arizona to pay the high price that Gray would likely garner.
“The rotation isn’t a clear area of need for the D-backs,” Adams wrote. “In fact, it’s been one of the team’s strengths. They also have a weak farm system and may prefer to simply stick with the arms that have gotten them this far, so perhaps this is too much of a long shot for serious consideration.”