On paper, it felt like veteran pitcher Sonny Gray was a fit for the SF Giants. Despite that, he is officially off of the market after signing a three-year, $75 million deal, including a team option for 2027, with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Did the SF Giants miss out on a chance to sign Sonny Gray?
Gray attacks the strike zone and excels at keeping the ball on the ground and suppressing home runs. These are qualities that the Giants like in a pitcher. Plus, there was a natural sense of familiarity with both Bob Melvin and Farhan Zaidi having ties to Gray dating back to their days with the Oakland A's.
On top of that, the 11-year veteran would be entering his age-34 season in 2024, meaning that he would not be a candidate to receive an unusually long deal in free agency. His latest contract confirmed that last detail as he landed a three-year deal with the Cardinals. And, his $26.67 million average annual value, including spreading his $5 million buyout for 2027 across the next three years, is the rate teams pay for a frontline starter.
That is what the right-handed hurler is. He does not generate strikeouts at an ace level but excels at every other facet of pitching. It was no surprise that he finished in second in the AL Cy Young voting in 2023 after posting a 2.79 ERA in 32 starts.
Last season was not an outlier either as he has tallied a 3.22 ERA since the start of 2019. Gray struggled during his time with the New York Yankees, but outside of that, he has consistently been an effective pitcher.
A three-year deal seems to be in the Giants' wheelhouse. They have not signed a free agent to a deal of more than three years since Farhan Zaidi took over in November of 2018. Even Logan Webb's extension buys out his first three years of free agency. Not taking chances is how you end up with Anthony DeSclafani and Ross Stripling in the rotation. Taking chances could land you Jeff Samardzija. There are pros and cons to both strategies, but it feels like the Giants, more often than not, attempt to be the smartest team in the room.
There were plenty of reasons why the righty pitcher was a fit for San Francisco, but there were very few rumors even connecting him to the Giants. Of course, he rejected a qualifying offer earlier this offseason, so the Giants would have lost their second-round pick and $500,000 in international bonus pool money if they signed him.
Could those qualities end up being more productive than Gray over the life of his new deal? It is certainly possible, but they have not consistently drafted well in recent years. It is like that scene in Family Guy where Peter picks the mystery box over the boat because the mystery box might end up being a boat. Maybe, retaining draft and signing capital better positions them down the road, but Gray would better position them for the next three years.
Of course, geography is a factor as well. if Gray wanted to pitch close to St. Louis, there is not much a team could do but outbid. That is just not something that the Giants will do. For one reason or another, geography rarely helps the Giants land a player, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres have no problem even though all three teams operate with the same state tax rates.
So, did the Giants miss out on signing Gray? It certainly feels like it. They are going to need a frontline starter and could even use another reliable arm given the rotation's lack of predictability outside of Logan Webb.
There are still several high-caliber arms available, including Blake Snell and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Though, if teams play the waiting game for too long, they might just end up with nothing to shore for it at all.