The Phillies understandably want Aaron Nola back next season, with the pitcher himself expressing interest in returning to Philadelphia. However, the team has to prepare themselves for the possibility the free agent will be somewhere else in 2024.
As such, the Phillies are understandably considering alternatives to bring in. (Although you imagine they will still want to boost the rotation, even if Nola does come back.) And one of their reported targets is of particular intrigue.
According to MLB Network's Jon Morosi, the Phillies are interested in Twins pitcher Sonny Gray. Morosi says the team will be a top suitor for him, particularly if they don't retain Nola.
Gray outstanding in 2023
Targeting Gray certainly makes a lot of sense. Especially after coming off a campaign where he has been named a Cy Young finalist for the first time since 2015.
The 34-year-old was quite simply sensational this past season, leading the majors with a 2.83 FIP and the lowest home run rate per nine innings. He also produced a 2.79 ERA, which was his lowest since 2015, along with a 1.147 WHIP.
Despite his age, Gray has been as consistent and durable as at any point in his 11-year Major League career. This is in large part due to being more committed than ever to his offseason conditioning program.
From a pitching perspective, the righty has a strong arsenal. His fastball can reach 97 mph, while his curve is particularly lethal.
The financial implications
As you'd expect, the Twins made a one-year qualifying offer to Gray on Monday, worth $20.325 million. However, he is expected to decline this and test the open market.
In addition, the Star Tribune's Bob Nightengale reports that the Twins are lowering their payroll next year, after carrying a record $155 million-plus in salary this past season. This will clearly impact their ability to bring Gray back.
As such, the door should be wide open for the Phillies. While you imagine the competition for Gray will be fierce, we already know the team is more than willing to fork out the big dollars.
Potentially also helping the Phillies in any bid to land the three-time All-Star is their pitching coach, Caleb Cotham. As Morosi notes, Gray and Cotham were teammates in college and worked well together when they were both in Cincinnati with the Reds.
For his career, Gray has a 98-85 record in 270 starts and 279 overall appearances. In the process, he has recorded a 3.47 ERA, 3.57 FIP, and 1.204 WHIP.