If the Minnesota Twins want to retain Sonny Gray, it’s going to take a multi-year deal. As expected, the free-agent pitcher officially rejected the team’s qualifying offer ahead of Tuesday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline, per a team source.
By declining to accept the one-year deal worth $20.25 million, Gray ensures the Twins would receive a compensatory first-round draft pick if he signs with another team for more than $50 million.
A finalist for the American League Cy Young award this season, Gray is one of the top free-agent pitching options on the market. He’s expected to attract numerous suitors and should easily fetch a deal of three to four seasons in length.
Though the Twins would love to retain Gray, who made it clear he’s open to a reunion at a reasonable rate, the club likely doesn’t want to commit a long-term deal to him with Pablo López already locked up for the next four seasons.
Gray turned 34 last week, and only twice in the past seven full seasons made more than 30 starts. He entered a dominant 2023 season as a bit of a question mark after being placed on the injured list three times during the 2022 campaign, his first year with the Twins.
Gray spoke last spring about the quest for longevity and seeking advice from his peers around the league, intending to apply their wisdom to his offseason program in the later stages of his career. He thought he’d adapted well in the 2022-23 offseason after a frustrating season and arrived at spring training in top form.
Gray followed by going 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 184 innings pitched, the most frames he’d completed in a season since 2015.
Not only did he work with López to provide the pitching staff with outstanding veteran leadership, Gray was incredibly consistent every fifth day. Gray completed at least five innings in 28 of 31 starts (he completed four innings while working on a pitch count in his 32nd and final outing on Sept. 28).
The Twins were in a bad spot when they acquired Gray shortly after the owner’s lockout concluded in March 2022. At the time, the team’s rotation only included rookies Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober and veteran Dylan Bundy, who’d been signed to a one-year deal in December 2021 ahead of the lockout.
In need of good arms, the Twins traded for Gray, shipping 2021 first-rounder Chase Petty (pick No. 26) to Cincinnati in exchange for the veteran.
Though bringing back Gray would bolster the Twins’ chances of repeating as AL Central champions next season, the current rotation is in far better hands than before Gray’s arrival. López, Ryan, Ober, Chris Paddack and Louie Varland all have starting experience. The Twins are particularly bullish on the potential of Paddack, who was outstanding after returning in September from a second Tommy John surgery.
Still, the Twins are expected to seek additional starting pitching help this offseason, whether it’s bringing back Gray or finding someone else. The team is expected to add at least one starting pitcher and perhaps a second on a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training.
“That’s a good group to start with, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to think about ways to get better,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said last month.
(Top photo of Sonny Gray: Daniel Shirey / MLB Photos via Getty Images)