Padres trade rumors: Jon Gray not a bad backup target

While the Max Scherzer to the Padres rumors continue to smolder on the back burner, A.J. Preller isn’t putting all his eggs in one basket. Today’s rumor, via Jon Morosi, the Padres are investigating a trade for Jon Gray.

Although Morosi notes that the market for Gray will not be known until Nationals ace Max Scherzer is dealt, keeping an eye on him clearly makes sense for the Padres.

Gray did not make the list of “dream” starting pitchers posited for the Padres to pursue, but he would have been a strong honorable mention on that list, to be certain.

A Jon Gray trade could be a helpful backup deal for the Padres

Gray currently sports a 3.67 ERA with 4.20 FIP for the Rockies starter. That’s good for 1.5 WAR at FanGraphs, if you’re keeping track there.

In 90 innings on the mound, Gray has recorded 91 strikeouts and 40 walks, a 22.7% and 9.0% strikeout and walk rate, respectively.

He gives up home runs on 13.3% of fly balls, but with his home games in Colorado that number should probably be expected to come down.

Gray has had kind of a roller-coaster career, with ERAs under 4 in 2017, 2019, and this season, with ERAs of 6.69 and 5.12 in-between.

It all adds up to a career ERA of 4.47.

A few checkmarks against Gray, however: outside of struggles during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he is putting up his lowest strikeout ratio and worst walk ratio.

Gray is in his final season before free agency kicks in. As such he’s being paid a rather small $6 million in his last year of arbitration eligibility.

So in all likelihood he’d just be a rental for the rest of the year.

MLB Trade Rumors recently ranked him No. 5 on their list of the top 60 trade candidates.

Author Steve Adams wrote:

Gray is one of the best and likeliest rental starters to change hands. The Rockies won’t issue him a qualifying offer, but he’s a solid enough rotation piece that the bulk of contenders in the game would consider him a decisive upgrade. Not every team would view him as a surefire postseason starter, but he’s an upgrade over nearly any club’s fourth/fifth starters.

As exciting as Scherzer would be? That’s a resounding no.

An improvement over the woes at the back of the Padres rotation? Certainly.

That kind of deal can go a long way, too.