How does a team that won a 101 games in total improve on last year. Well for starters the Cubs are going to get a lot of help from last year and the experience that was gained by not only winning 97 regular season games but getting out of the NL Wild Card Game and the NL Divisional Round. The Cubs were swept by the white hot Mets in the NLCS but had beaten them seven times in the regular season. The NLCS had a lot of miscues by the young team, but they were all teachable moments for a team that’s led by one of the best managers in baseball in Joe Maddon.
The Cubs obvious need is the starting rotation. Behind Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta who’re as good a number one and two in baseball as there is, after that there is much to be desired. The thought is that if the Cubs can add another strong starter in this offseason they could finally get themselves at least into the World Series. The top names available are David Price, Zack Greinke, and Johnny Cuteo to go along with a couple guys who wouldn’t cost as much but would require a draft pick. Those names are guys like Jordan Zimmerman formerly of the Nationals, and Jeff Samardzija formerly of the White Sox and Cubs.
The other issue plaguing Theo as he heads into the extremely important offseason is who of his young players would he be willing to part with in order to entice another team to trade away a starter. The biggest name in the trade market in Sonny Gray of the A’s. Theo’s already fleeced Billy Beane once in the last year and a half, and the thought is that perhaps the teams could do business again so that the Cubs could not only get a pitcher on the open market, but in the trade market as well. A’s GM David Forst said as recently as Tuesday that the team has no plans of trading the 26 year old ace who was named a 2015 AL Cy Young Finalist. If the Cubs were to sign David Price in Free Agency while only giving up their 28th overall pick, and in addition somehow pry Gray from the A’s, the Cubs would by far and away have the best starting rotation in baseball to go along with a maturing lineup that is assuredly going to be the best in baseball for years to come.
Who is Sonny Gray, and what would it take to get him? Sonny Gray is from Nashville, TN and attended Vanderbilt University where he was drafted 18th overall in 2011. Sonny Gray was in fact drafted by the Cubs in the 27th round in 2008 but did not sign with Chicago as he decided to keep his verbal commitment to Vandy. While at Vandy he was extremely succesful in his first two years, but in his final season as a Junior he posted a 12-4 record with a 2.43ERA and 132 strikeouts. Vandy would make their first ever College World Series with Gray on the team losing to eventual runner-up Florida in the Semifinals.
Sonny Gray made his ML Debut on July 10th, 2013 and was recalled a month later where he became a mainstay and a force in the AL West. Sonny Gray has pitched in two postseason games in his career, including a decisive Game 5 two years ago against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS. Gray’s career numbers are 33-20 with a 2.88ERA and 419 strikeouts in 76 games pitched. Gray has five complete games in his career and four shutouts. Gray was an All-Star in 2015.
In order to acquire Sonny Gray who would be well worth any package the Cubs would give up they’d have to start with players like Eloy Jimenez or Gleybar Torres. That’s if the A’s would accept those prospects and not want Addison Russell back. Players the Cubs would not be willing to ship back would be Schwarber, Bryant, Russell, and perhaps Soler, but if Soler was the centerpiece of a deal for Sonny Gray the Cubs would have to consider it. Jorge Soler had a monster postseason and his stock will never be higher than it is right now. Would it be right to trade him while his stock is at an all time high to get an ace remains to be seen. The only thing about Soler is that he is under control for quite sometime because of the contact he signed coming out of Cuba. If you could package a Torres and or Jimenez to go along with Ian Happ and a pitching prospect then by all means make the deal. Unfortunately the A’s are going to want someone to market upon the return. Solar would be that guy, if Starlin Castro was in the deal then that’s a win because of how good Javier Baez’s defensively.
The Cubs have a ton of options this year and Sonny Gray is just one. The Cubs have a lot of good young players on their 40-man roster right now, and still despite having all those call-ups have the best farm system in baseball. A starting five of Lester, Arrieta, Price, Gray. and Hendricks would be a dream scenario, but at what cost would you have to pay in order to add Gray to that mix is the biggest question, and would Oakland even trade him is the other.