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Blue Jays Pivoting to Gray?

After losing out on signing Matz, the Blue Jays still need to address their starting rotation and, apparently, Jon Gray could be a target


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The Toronto Blue Jays are victims of the rumour mill and speculation train these days. Actually, better put, fans of the Blue Jays are the victims of it. The emotional turmoil of the non stop rumours connected to a team that is perfectly positioned to make a splash or two this winter is real. Perhaps the worst torturer is MLB’s Jon Morosi, who has no shortage of “coulds, mights, maybes” when it comes to the Blue Jays. Almost as soon as the ink dried on the Matz/Cardinals deal, he gave us some more to chew on. He suggests that Toronto may pivot to Jon Gray.

 

Firstly, let’s try and get over the Morosi effect that has left me skeptical of anything he suggests. If you watch the clip linked above and listen to the way Morosi carefully opines that Gray COULD be the next focal point for Toronto. He doesn’t offer any kind of source or information to back up what he is saying, so it is essentially a gut feeling. Considering what follows a lot of feelings in the gut, take it for what you will. To further add to the skepticism, Morosi also suggests that Marcus Stroman is also in the Blue Jays’ Top 5 of targets, which is ridiculous. Do we really think a reunion is in the cards? No. But, that’s the cool part for Morosi: he doesn’t actually have to be correct. So, with that acknowledged, let’s see if Gray is a logical fit for Toronto.

 

Unlike the Stroman idea, Gray may actually make sense for Toronto. The 30 yr old righty is coming off his 7th season pitching for the Colorado Rockies, where half of his games would have come in Coors Field, a notoriously difficult park to pitch in. In fact, Statcast has it with the highest Park Factor in baseball. Yet, Gray has managed to put up some fairly decent numbers over his time there.

 

STATS HERE

 

It is worth noting that Rogers Centre is middle of the pack when it comes to Park Factor, but near the top of the league when it comes to home runs allowed. Gray’s HR/9 totals for his career only show a slight increase playing in Coors Field. So, it is not like he has been hammered playing in Colorado. In fact, his FIP is identical (3.91) both at home and away. What’s more, his xFIP is lower (3.62) at home than away (3.97). That tells me that he wouldn’t expect to see a major jump in either direction if he were to pitch in Toronto.

 

Gray has been a good pitcher on a bad Rockies team over the last couple years. They are the team that opted not to trade Trevor Story last July, opting to let him walk. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gray enjoyed pitching anywhere but Colorado for a number of reasons. But, should Toronto pursue him? And, how hard?

 

MLBTR predicts that Gray will see a 4yr/$56M deal from one of the Tigers, Angels or Giants. Given that the Giants just signed a couple starters and are looking to re-sign Kevin Gausman, we can probably cross them off the list. Compared to those other two teams, Toronto can offer the best chance at making the playoffs in the next few years. At $14M AAV, Gray could have several more suitors, though.

 

For the Blue Jays, they will likely look at the rebounded K% and K/BB% in 2021: 24.4% and 15.4% respectively. We know they like pitchers who throw strikes, as evidenced by their belief that Robbie Ray could rebound. Just like they weren’t scared off of Ray’s history of walking batters, they may not be so scared of Gray’s 9% BB%. They may also be encouraged by a nearly 12% increase in his GB% from 2020 to 2021 as well as a 7% decrease in his Hard%. One thing that might give the Blue Jays reason to pause is the 15.1% HR/FB rate Gray posted last season. Sure, it is an outcome of pitching in Colorado, but remember that Toronto’s own park is rather favourable to the long ball.

 

Last season saw Gray move toward his slider more, opting to use his curveball and change up less often. It is an interesting choice, given there is almost a 10mph separation from his fastball, which averaged 95mph last year, to his slider, which averaged 86.8mph. It’s interesting that, if he wanted to really mess with batters, he could use the further separation of his curve, which averaged 76.1mph. Perhaps, working with Pete Walker could do something for the FB/SL combination like it did for Robbie Ray.

 

One of the appealing aspects of Gray is that he is relatively durable, which is one of the reasons the Blue Jays were so keen on Jose Berrios. Gray has made at least 20 starts in each of his full seasons as a starter. He has 2 seasons of 29 starts, including 2021, one of 25 and one of 31. That said, even though he has made that many starts, he doesn’t have a reputation for going deep into games as evidenced by 172.1 innings being the most of his career. He tossed 149 innings in 29 starts in 2021, which works out to roughly 5.1 innings per start. Adding a starter like Gray would mean that Toronto cannot ignore their bullpen. But, given the nature of baseball these days, 5 inning starts isn’t an unusual issue for a team to navigate.

 

Toronto needs two more starters and Jon Gray could very well be an option for them. Whether there is as much interest as Morosi points out remains to be seen. But, if they can come to an agreement on a fairly durable and productive starter, it has to be considered a win.

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.