With Ross Atkins emphasizing the need to acquire pitching this offseason, Jon Gray emerges as an intriguing fit for the Toronto Blue Jays.
There’s no question about it, the Blue Jays are desperate for starting pitching. And for good reason, too.
Their projected starting rotation for 2019, while brimming with potential, carries a significant possibility of utter collapse. Aaron Sanchez is injury prone (until he proves otherwise), and Ryan Borucki, Sean Reid-Foley, and Thomas Pannone lack the experience that is crucial for consistent success in the MLB. Outside of Marcus Stroman and his yearly 200 innings of contribution, nothing is really guaranteed – a truly terrifying thought.
To solve this problem, the Blue Jays could add veteran leadership and consistent innings by signing a free agent starter. Pitchers like Lance Lynn, James Shields, and Wade Miley fit the bill as a cost-effective, reliable source of innings. However, with the pitching market being relatively thin this year, even the price for mid-to-low-tier starters may be more than what the Blue Jays are willing to pay. And that brings us to the trade market, and more specifically, Jon Gray.
Who is Jon Gray?
Jon Gray (age 27) was the third overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft. He made his MLB debut in 2015 and has a career 4.65 ERA. While that may not excite many fans, the ERA does not tell the whole story. It’s important to note that Gray is pitching half of his starts at Coors Field, infamously known for being a pitcher’s graveyard. Diving a little bit deeper into his peripheral numbers, one can start to see the pitcher that Gray really is. Consider the following stats (career):
FIP: 3.68 xFIP: 3.54
K/9: 9.53 BB/9: 2.84
Avg Exit Velocity: 88.9 mph
Gray’s FIP and xFIP are on average, a full run lower than his actual ERA. This suggests that Gray could emerge as a breakout star in the near future. Further evidence of Gray’s abilities is his strikeout and walk ratios. Both numbers would rank Gray among the elite starters in the game and even without a strong knowledge of advanced analytics, one can accept that striking out a lot of hitters while walking a minimum is generally a recipe for success. And for those who do have a passion for sabermetrics, according to Baseball Savant, Gray’s average exit velocity of 88.9 mph would put him among the top 9% of pitchers in the league.
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What would it cost?
In fairness, the Colorado Rockies probably know that Gray is a good pitcher. Furthermore, with three years of control remaining, they should be in no rush to trade a potential impact starter. Yet the reason I write this article is because the Blue Jays have what the Rockies need.
This offseason, Colorado is set to lose three key players: Carlos Gonzalez, a starting outfielder, DJ Lemahieu, the starting second baseman, and Adam Ottavino, the closer. If the Blue Jays came knocking with a proposal that could fill all the holes left behind by departing free agents, would the Rockies trade their former first overall pick?
For example, if the Rockies are looking to fill all three holes, would a package of Kevin Pillar, Ryan Tepera, and Cavan Biggio be enough to get a deal done? Or perhaps the Rockies would like more quality than quantity and a package of Ken Giles and Anthony Alford would pique their interest.
Whatever the case, Jon Gray is an intriguing target that the Blue Jays should at least explore. Trading from an area of surplus for an area of need is just smart business and with the Rockies matching up to be the perfect trade partner, this could be the move that finally brings an ace to Toronto.