While several MLB clubs have expressed interest in Oakland Athletics right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray, none of them are as interested the Milwaukee Brewers.
Here’s what Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe noted about the Brewers interest in Gray:
The Brewers have shown the most interest and they have the prospects to make it happen. The deal to sell off Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox last December turned out to be a brilliant move by GM David Stearns, who, by the way, had a hand in building the Astros. Stearns acquired Travis Shaw from Boston about a week after he signed Eric Thames. They are major cogs in the Brewers’ lineup.
Milwaukee’s high level in interest makes a lot of sense, especially after their division rival Chicago Cubs acquired Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox to bolster their starting rotation that now features Quitana, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey.
While the Brewers starting pitching (ranked 7th in the Major Leagues in ERA) has been a strong suit, there are signs that the success of the starting rotation might not last with the current staff. Brent Suter has done a terrific job filling in for one of Milwaukee’s best pitchers in Chase Anderson, who was on the disabled list with an oblique injury, but Junior Guerra has had command issues all season, and Zach Davies has a 5.08 ERA on the season.
Outside of the emergence of Anderson, Jimmy Nelson has also enjoyed a breakout year in Milwaukee’s rotation, but that leaves Matt Garza as the team’s 3rd best pitcher in terms of earned run average, but as a veteran pitcher who has struggled majorly in the past, it’s risky to rely on him going down the stretch, especially when the Brewers are planning to move on from him after this year as it already.
You have to give a lot of credit to Milwaukee’s pitching coach Derek Johnson, however, for the work he has done with the current training staff. He’s turned around Anderson and Nelson’s career for the better, and has also helped Garza rebound back to being at least a league average player. Johnson is also very close with Gray, as he was Gray’s pitching coach at Vanderbilt (just an interesting footnote).
In-order to land Quintana, the Cubs parted with their top hitting prospect (Eloy Jimenez) and top pitching prospect (Dylan Cease). Indications are that the Brewers would be unwilling to do that with Lewis Brinson as their top hitting prospect, and Josh Hader as the top pitching prospect. Brewers general manager David Stearns says he’s looking for starting pitching help, but won’t part with several top prospects in the system to make it happen:
“We’ve worked very hard to build our system and organization as a whole where the level of young talent we have is a good place to be,” Stearns told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I don’t see us, whether it’s this year or any year going forward, moving from that strategy.”
Obviously, to get a pitcher like Gray, who has shown ace potential in his career with the Athletics, you will still have to pay a prospect price to acquire such a pitcher, but several reports have said that the asking price for Gray is expected to be lower than Quintana’s asking price, but Gray will still command a lot in return.
Perhaps Milwaukee’s most attractive prospects that they would be willing to move are Corey Ray, Trent Clark, Isan Diaz, and Lucas Erceg. While the Brewers just used the 5th pick in 2016 MLB Draft to select Ray and there could be some loyalty by the organization shown to him, the Brewers have a collection of outfield prospects, and a lot them are already ahead of Ray as far as development goes. Ray is still at High-A Carolina, meaning the Brewers have four outfield prospects ahead of him already (Brinson, Phillips, Ryan Cordell, Michael Reed)
Clark is also at High-A just like Ray, and the Brewers would almost certainly rather move Clark if they can instead of Ray. Diaz is expendable because the major league level will already have Orlando Arcia at shortstop, and he is looking like he can be an elite player. Diaz is also at High-A Carolina, and the Brewers have an abundance of shortstop prospects. Mauricio Dubon is one of them, and he is already at Triple-A Colorado Springs, which could lessen the blow if the Brewers have to part with Diaz.
Last season, it would’ve been difficult for the Brewers to trade Erceg, as they had no clear plan at who was going to man third base for years to come, other than Erceg himself potentially. That has already changed, as it looks like Travis Shaw is an emerging star third baseman for the Brewers, and will probably be offered an extension by the Brewers this winter to buy out his arbitration years. Shaw is currently batting .295/.365/.570 with 20 homers and 66 runs batted in on the season.
Point being, the Brewers would be able to acquire Gray potentially, and still keep their elite farm system together, it just also depends on what other teams offer to Oakland. The Astros, Cubs, Indians, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Blue Jays, and Braves have all been linked to Gray rumors in-addition to the Brewers.
On Friday night against the Indians, it was rumored that Gray had been scratched from his scheduled start that night. Those rumors turned out to be false, and Gray said he received 50 texts before the game from family and friends before he went on to pitch six scoreless innings in the game.
Gray is also under team control until 2020, which makes it easier for the Athletics to get value for him, even with the injuries Gray has battled in the past. Even with those such injuries, the velocity has always been there for Gray, as well as location for the most part.
The 27-year-old Gray is 5-4 on the year with a 3.72 earned run average and 79 strikeouts in 84.2 innings of work. His best year of his MLB career game in 2015, when he had a 2.73 earned run average, a 14-7 win-loss record, and 169 punch outs in 208 innings.
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