Blue Jays should be in on Sonny Gray with 2018 in mind

TORONTO, ON - JULY 25: Sonny Gray
TORONTO, ON - JULY 25: Sonny Gray /

From nearly all reports in the media, the Blue Jays front office would like to angle for contention in 2018. With that in mind, why not pursue Sonny Gray?

Before you accuse me of writing a “click-bat” article, or whatever the popular slam is this week, hear me out on this, because it makes sense in my mind.

The Blue Jays are expected to be sellers this week, as they have several players on expiring contracts, and are all but guaranteed to miss the playoffs this year. The roster has battled injuries and underperformance throughout the season, but despite their underwhelming performance, there is a lot of talent on the 40 man roster.

With that mind, the front office appears as though they’d like to try to compete next year. If that’s the way they play things, trading players like Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano, Joe Smith, and Jose Bautista (if he waives his 10-5 trade rights), should be at the top of the to do list this week. That also means that names like Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, and more shouldn’t be going anywhere.

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Trading the expiring contracts makes sense to me, although it’ll be interesting to see what kind of return the Jays could get. It’s unfortunate that Estrada’s value has completely bottomed out lately, because he’s been a valuable starter for 2.5 season with the Blue Jays, and should be netting a great return if the baseball gods were fair about these things.

No such luck on that front though, and Francisco Liriano has largely struggled of late as well. Jose Bautista has been cold at the dish, and Joe Smith was on the DL up until a few days ago, so it’s hard to say what kind of value opposing clubs would place on each player. They’d no doubt have more interest in Donaldson or others with more control, but if the Jays plan to contend then that trades should stop there.

If the Jays are going to contend next year, they could also look at getting a head start during this trade season. For example, the Oakland A’s are shopping Sonny Gray, an effective starting pitcher with a ton of upside. He’s earning just 3.875 million this year, and has two years of arbitration and club control remaining.

Next year’s rotation is going to have two holes to fill, assuming neither of Estrada or Liriano are re-signed, which really does feel unlikely. Gray has had an inconsistent career, but he’s a very talented pitcher with the ability to perform like an ace when he’s right. Adding him to a healthy Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez would give Toronto one of the best trios in baseball.

Of course, players like Gray aren’t just given away. The Jays would have to send a significant package to bring him in, but the A’s are reportedly seeking a controllable and talented centre fielder as a significant piece in any Gray trade. The Jays happen to have a few of those actually. Anthony Alford is one of their highest rated prospects, and looks like the type of player that could develop into an elite performer in the MLB. If the Jays were willing to part with him, the A’s should be interested in a package that includes someone with his raw athleticism and production in limited opportunity.

The Jays also have Kevin Pillar, who is still relatively cheap and has plenty of contract control as well. I’m not sure if the Blue Jays would sell him, or if the A’s would want Pillar as part of the return, but the Jays should be able to navigate the trade if it were to take place. There is no replacing “Superman’s” defence, but Alford made his MLB debut this year, and Dalton Pompey is also chomping at the bit to get back to the big leagues at some point. One or both of the youngsters could hold down the position in the short term, with the goal of impressing enough to stick.

Next: What's Estrada's trade market like now?

I don’t expect the Blue Jays will actually pursue Gray before the 31st, as there are plenty of contenders who are trying to acquire him right now as well (it appears the Yankees are close). However, if he’s still available after the deadline, or his market drives up before the calendar flips to August, the Blue Jays should at least call to find out what else Billy Beane needs other than a centre fielder.