Rockies starter Jon Gray is scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the season. With Colorado having virtually no chance to make the playoffs, that makes the 29-year-old one of the more logical trade candidates in baseball. Indeed, MLBTR’s Steve Adams ranked Gray the #1 trade candidate in MLB last week.
Gray changing teams next month still seems the most likely outcome, but Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reports the Rockies are expected to offer him a contract extension before pulling the trigger on any trade. Of course, Colorado offering Gray an extension doesn’t guarantee he’d stick around. The Rockies don’t look particularly close to contention, and the CAA Sports client may prefer to field offers from more immediate contenders this winter instead.
As Rosenthal notes, Colorado’s hitter-friendly home park could also work against the Rockies in convincing a pitcher to stick around for the long haul. Gray, however, is the rare arm who hasn’t seemed too affected by Coors Field. His career home/road splits are nearly identical, and Gray’s actually been far better at home this season (3.25 ERA, .167/.264/.314 opponents’ slash line) than on the road (6.75 ERA, .350/.400/.538 line).
Extensions for starting pitchers this close to free agency are atypical, as one might expect. Over the past four seasons, only two starters with five-plus years of MLB service time signed extensions. Righty Sonny Gray inked a three-year, $30.5 million guarantee with the Reds in 2019. That was part of an agreement to facilitate a trade from the Yankees to Cincinnati, however, so it’s not a perfectly analogous situation. Righty Lance McCullers Jr., meanwhile, signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Astros in March. McCullers is nearly two full years younger than Gray and has a better career track record (even after adjusting for park), so the Rockies hurler would have a hard time commanding that kind of commitment.
Gray’s contractual status makes his situation one of the more pressing issues for interim general manager Bill Schmidt. He’s not the only Colorado starter drawing attention from rival clubs, however. Rosenthal reports the Rockies are also receiving interest in starter Germán Márquez. That’s certainly no surprise. Márquez has worked to a 3.91 ERA in 71 1/3 frames this season -- a strong mark for a pitcher in Coors Field- with quality strikeout and ground-ball rates (24.7% and 52.7%, respectively). Márquez has walked quite a few batters this year (11.2%), but he was one of the game’s better strike throwers between 2017-20.
In addition to his strong track record of performance, Márquez is controllable through 2024 under the terms of an extension he signed in April 2019. He’s making just $7.5 million this year, followed by respective salaries of $11 million and $15 million in 2022 and 2023. The deal contains a $16 million club option (with a $2.5 million buyout) for 2024. Considering that long-term control, the Rockies needn’t move Márquez this summer, and Rosenthal suggests they’re unlikely to do so.
Between Gray, Márquez and impending free-agent shortstop Trevor Story (who doesn’t seem likely to re-sign), the Rockies have a trio of players who should continue to generate plenty of calls from contenders. There’s a particular sense of urgency with regards to Gray and Story, as the organization seeks the core of the next contending club in Colorado.