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Sonny Gray Signs with Cardinals

The Twins’ ace moves on.

Division Series - Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins - Game Three Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Early this morning, Jon Heyman reported that Sonny Gray was nearing a deal with the Cardinals. Ken Rosenthal later added the deal was for 3 years and $75 million.

Gray is coming off of arguably the best season of his career, pitching his most innings in eight years with a 2.79 ERA/2.83 FIP and 5.3 bWAR. He was rewarded with a second-place finish in AL Cy Young voting, even garnering a few MVP votes along the way.

Sonny was inarguably one of the Twins’ best and most important players in 2023 no matter how you spin it. However, as a 34-year-old fly ball pitcher with a league-low home run rate, he is a textbook regression candidate. The Cardinals have an offense that can compete for a title and a starting rotation with major holes, the exact type of team you would expect to overpay for a pitcher through his age-37 season.

While I floated some creative ways the Twins could retain Gray, realistically it was never going to happen. Front-line starting pitching is the most overpaid asset on the free agent market, and a team cutting payroll can’t keep up with the big spenders on that front. Tying up almost a fifth of your expected payroll in an aging SP coming off of a career year simply doesn’t make sense. While the Twins will sniff around some guys on 1-year deals, playoff-caliber starting pitchers are much more likely to be acquired via trade.

As long as the deal goes through, the Twins will receive and first-round pick in the 30-36 range and the associated slot value in their bonus pool, likely around $2.5 million. Once again, keep in mind the Twins originally acquired Sonny Gray for Chase Petty, the 26th overall pick in 2021 who signed for $2.5 million, meaning they recouped almost all of the value they gave up in the first place.

Losing Sonny on the heels of Kenta’s deal with the Tigers yesterday hurts, but realistically I don’t think the Twins were planning on bringing either back. Gray was always going to be priced out and I don’t believe the Twins were ever willing to offer Kenta more than one year, understandably. Minnesota has a decent starting five if the season started today and there are plenty of other intriguing arms on both the free agent and trade market if they want to upgrade.

Thanks for a couple of great seasons, Sonny! And best of luck in St. Louis!