The Cincinnati Reds expect to contend in the National League Central Division in 2021 after finishing just three games behind first-place Chicago this past season and reaching the playoffs. So why, then, are the Reds interested in trading one of their best starting pitchers this offseason in right-hander Sonny Gray? And why did they just trade closer Raisel Iglesias?
Reds Looking To Trade Ace Sonny Gray |MLB Expert Analysis
Ideally, the Reds would trade Gray for young pitching and replace him via free agency or trade at a lower cost. Gray is owed $10 million in 2021 and 2022, with a $12 million club option for 2023. Gray’s trade value may never be higher than it is right now.
In the 60-game shortened 2020 season, Gray made 11 starts. He went 5-3, 3.94 in 9 starts before he went on the 10-day injured list on Sept. 3 and two afterward when Gray wasn’t quite as good. Gray was scheduled to pitch Game 3 of the Wild-Card Series at Atlanta, but the Reds were eliminated after 2 games.
Gray did tie the club record for strikeouts over the first 3 starts (28) and 4 starts (35) of a season while establishing new club records for strikeouts in the first 5 starts (45) and 6 starts (51) of a season. All four marks would then be broken by Trevor Bauer, who went on to establish club records for strikeouts in the first 11 and 12 apps of a season (100). Bauer, who won the NL Cy Young, is a free agent and not expected to resign with Cincinnati.
If the Reds lose Bauer and Gray from their rotation, it’s impossible to imagine them coming close to replacing that productivity via free agency, and doing it for less money. Of the 9.5 total WAR all Reds pitchers accumulated in 2020, nearly half (4.2) was attributable to Bauer and Gray.
Nearly every contender is expected to pursue Gray, although you can rule out the Yankees as Gray didn’t like pitching in New York while playing for them before a trade to Cincinnati. Part of why Gray signed a long-term extension 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.
San Diego would make a ton of sense for Gray as the Padres’ farm system is loaded and they need pitching after losing Mike Clevinger for all of 2021 due to Tommy John surgery.
Cincinnati did make that trade Monday in shipping out Iglesias to the Angels for a prospect and player to be named. Iglesias is signed for $9.125MM this coming season and will be a free agent following the 2021 season.
George Springer Update
The best position player on the free-agent market is likely Astros outfielder George Springer. He would will a huge need for the rising Chicago White Sox, but reportedly they are not prepared to break the bank for the former World Series MVP. Plus, Springer values himself at center-field prices with the White Sox looking to add a right fielder — likely one who hits left-handed — this winter. The White Sox don’t need a center fielder, though, with the dynamic Luis Robert holding down the position.
Pale Hose right fielders ranked 19th in baseball in 2020, slashing .246/.303/.348 with four homers and an 82 wRC+. The position has been a black hole for years. The only left-handed hitters in the projected lineup as of now are switch-hitters Yoán Moncada and Yasmani Grandal.
In 51 games in the truncated 2020 season, Springer hit .265/.359/.540 with 14 homers, 32 RBI and 37 runs scored. Springer turned his season around on Sept. 3, as he posted a .341 (31×91) average with two doubles, two triples and nine homers in his last 23 games, hitting safely in 21 of those 23 contests, which included a season-long 12-game hitting streak. Over that span, Springer raised his batting average by 71 points up to .265, and his OPS by over 150 points from .719 to a club-high .899. He’s also a proven postseason stud. Expect Springer to land with either the New York Mets or Toronto Blue Jays.
The White Sox have offseason needs other than right field, too, and adding Springer could have the potential to soak up money that could be used to deepen a starting rotation. Instead, the Sox could look at someone much cheaper like Dodgers free-agent outfielder Joc Pederson.
Ex-Cub Kyle Schwarber and Eddie Rosario from the Twins are recent additions to the free-agent market after being non-tendered on December 2. Both could make sense as a DH.
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