Several teams are showing “legitimate interest” in free agent right-hander Jon Gray, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (Twitter link), with the Rangers included in that list. Gray’s decision may come relatively soon, as MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets that there is some industry expectation that Gray will sign within the next week, or prior to the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement on December 1.
Texas has mostly been linked to major position player free agents this offseason, but with the organization reportedly ready for a huge payroll increase, rotation help is naturally also on the radar. Justin Verlander (before he re-signed with the Astros) and Clayton Kershaw have already been linked to the Rangers, though Gray would likely require a longer-term contract. Feinsand notes that geography could also be a factor for Gray, as playing for the Rangers would put him closer to his home in Oklahoma.
Gray would immediately become the veteran ace of a young Texas staff, and quite possibly wouldn’t be the only new arm in the mix. Since the Rockies didn’t issue Gray a qualifying offer, he can be signed without any draft pick compensation, making him a particularly intriguing option for a Texas club that is looking at several big-name additions. Signing Gray would allow the Rangers to instead surrender their draft capital on one of the 10 QO-rejecting free agents still on the market, though obviously Gray holds that same appeal for any number of other teams.
Gray celebrated his 30th birthday earlier this month, and after seven MLB seasons with Colorado, could now be set to pitch elsewhere for the first time in his professional career. It remains to be seen if a return to the Rockies is still a possibility, as while the club made a push to sign Gray to a contract extension before the offseason began, Rockies GM Bill Schmidt said on November 10 that Gray’s camp hadn’t been in contact with the front office since the end of the season.
If Gray did sign within a week’s time, he would become the latest player to depart what has become a fast-moving starting pitching market. Verlander, Eduardo Rodriguez, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Anthony DeSclafani, and Andrew Heaney are some of the prominent free agent hurlers who have already signed new contracts, and Alex Wood is reportedly close to a new deal to return to the Giants. This should only help Gray’s leverage in finding a healthy multi-year pact beyond the Rockies’ reported extension offer of three years and between $35-40MM. The Tigers are the only other known suitor for Gray to date.
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