Could Sonny Gray be the last piece of the puzzle as the Nationals try to finally win a playoff series?
As Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reports, the Nationals have entered the Sonny Gray sweepstakes, potentially setting up the 12th trade between Washington GM Mike Rizzo and Athletics VP of baseball operations Billy Beane since Rizzo joined the Nats in 2009.
Gray, 27, is widely believed to be the top controllable starter on the market, as he’s under contract through 2019 and has a 3.66 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 15 starts this season. He won’t come cheap, however, as controllable starting pitchers are at a major premium this season, and Gray has also been connected to plenty of other teams.
A few weeks ago, the Nationals looked to have one of the strongest rotations in the league. But since then, fifth starter Joe Ross has undergone season-ending Tommy John surgery, and Stephen Strasburg exited his start Sunday after two innings due to forearm tightness. While Strasburg is expected to avoid a disabled list stint for the time being, it will be difficult for the Nats to trust his health over the remainder of the year, as he’s spent time on the disabled list in three of the past four seasons and had Tommy John surgery back in 2010.
The Nationals dealt their two most advanced pitching prospects, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, as part of the package for Adam Eaton this offseason, and it’d be an understatement to say their rotation depth is lacking. Journeyman Edwin Jackson is currently occupying their fifth starter slot, with A.J. Cole, Jacob Turner, and 2014 first-rounder Erick Fedde (who’s shuttled between the rotation and bullpen in the minors this year) looming as potential replacements if he can’t get the job done. Thus, Gray could team up with Max Scherzer to form an imposing 1-2 punch in Washington while pushing everyone else down one spot in the rotation and reducing the Nats’ need to depend on Strasburg.
Morosi mentions that the A’s are interested in young center fielders, which means they’d certainly try to pry away 20-year-old Victor Robles, ranked as the No. 5 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, from the Nationals. Washington won’t give him up easily, but 18-year-old outfield prospect Juan Soto is the Nats’ only other top 100 prospect (No. 42) according to Pipeline, so it’s very possible that they’d need to give up Robles in order to outbid other teams for Gray. But if they’re trying to assemble a package, Washington has plenty of other young, rangy center fielders to offer, including Andrew Stevenson, Daniel Johnson, Blake Perkins, and Rafael Bautista.