Two Under the Radar Starters the Twins Should Target: Sonny Gray and Robbie Ray
Image courtesy of © Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsThe MLB trade deadline is just a couple weeks away and the Minnesota Twins are 58-35 with World Series aspirations this season. For a few months now, there has been constant speculation as to who or if the Twins will be adding to push this team over the top and truly become the team to beat for the AL pennant.
Most of the speculation has been about adding some high-leverage arms to the bullpen, and that is likely going to happen, but it has begun to look more and more like adding an arm to the rotation is something the Twins will look to do. Over the last month, the Twins bullpen has a 3.02 ERA, 4.01 FIP (4.26 xFIP), 1.08 WHIP, and 8.79 K/9. They have been much better than the starters over that time with the starters having a combined 4.48 ERA, 4.11 FIP (4.39 xFIP), 1.31 WHIP and a 8.09 K/9.
With the rotation hitting a bit of a rough stretch and with the uncertainty of guys like Pineda (because of his recent surgeries) or Perez (because of inconsistency and past performance), adding an arm to the rotation could help. We have all heard of the rumors about guys like Matt Boyd, Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman and Zack Wheeler so I decided to take a look at a couple guys who have not really been much talked about, but could be available for a good price.
It has been rumored lately that if the Twins were to acquire a starter, they would want team control beyond this season. Sonny Gray is now a 29-year-old veteran pitching for the Cincinnati Reds and is signed for three more years after 2019 with a 2023 option. He is making roughly $10 million per year.
Gray was traded there this offseason and is having a great season so far and he even made the All-Star Game. His 3.42 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 1.18 WHIP, and 10.36 K/9 are all great and he would likely slot in right behind Odorizzi as the number three starter.
Gray has a five-pitch arsenal with his curveball and slider being a couple of the best in baseball. He is in the 97th percentile for curveball spin with batters hitting just .169 against it while batters are hitting just .108 against the slider. The problem comes with his fastball, which has hung around 93.5 MPH his whole career. This season the AVG against it is .305 with a SLG of .453 but the expected statistics show he has been unlucky, with 30-40 points of positive regression likely for both stats. If MVP (most valuable pitching coach) Wes Johnson can unlock some more velocity to make the fastball better then we may have an elite pitcher here.
Of course there are always the questions like will the Reds even be sellers? What would a trade for Gray cost? Will Gray be available?
I would think the Reds are willing to sell anyone for the right price because even their young ace Luis Castillo was rumored to be in trade talks. I imagine it would be like last seasons Chris Archer trade where the Rays got two MLB ready players in Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow back. It could very well cost a package of something similar to Arraez/Thorpe to acquire Sonny Gray. He doesn’t have the same name value as someone like Trevor Bauer, but he may be a better upgrade.
On the most recent Leading Off Podcast with fellow Twins Daily member Matt Braun we discussed Sonny Gray, so skip to the 52 minute mark.
The Diamondbacks are sitting around a .500 record but they play in a division with the Dodgers so it is unlikely they make the playoffs. A wild card spot is open but that also would be difficult. They are stuck in the middle so they should trade away left-handed starter Robbie Ray to the Twins. Ray is having a great year, posting a 3.81 ERA, 4.04 FIP (3.89 xFIP) with a WHIP of 1.31 but the most interesting stats for him come with his walks and strikeouts.
Robbie Ray is second in the NL with a K/9 of 11.76. Conversely he also has the worst BB/9 in the NL at 4.54. Then again, he also has the second best H/9. Basically, as a batter you go up there and either walk or get out with no other option. Just like Gray, his best pitches are his curveball and slider but the slider is used much more (34% compared to 14% on the curve) and opponents are hitting just .184 against it with a .356 SLG. His fastball hangs out around 92.5 MPH and he throws it 44.3% of the time. It isn't really anything special but it does a nice job of complementing the breaking balls.
There is no certainty that the Diamondbacks will sell, but it might be wise because of the strong competition for a wild card spot and the already lost division. Plus they owe us for Eduardo Escobar, right? I have no idea what a package might look like for Ray but I doubt it would be an easy get. If the Twins feel like he would be the third-best pitcher on the team and it won’t cost you the farm then pull the trigger for some October wins.
Overall, I think the Twins will be adding a rotation arm, especially now that it looks like Pineda is getting a reduced workload (he was limited to just 76 pitches his last outing). This front office doesn’t appear to be the type to go add a big name like Noah Syndergaard, and that could be a good thing. Acquiring a solid starter behind Berrios/Odorizzi and in front of Gibson gives you a stacked rotation for a deep October run.
What do you think? Would you like either of these pitchers on the Twins, or is there someone else you have your eye on? Let me know in the comments.