Sonny Gray fits a need for the Padres

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Credit: AP Photo

Winning it all is the only goal the San Diego Padres possess.

Anything short of a World Series title will disappoint this franchise. Peter Seidler and the ownership group made a commitment to winning like no other time in the history of the organization. The Padres are built to win now and should enjoy success in 2023.

However, nothing is given in Major League Baseball.

The Padres presently have an issue with their starting staff. Unlike the 2022 season, there isn’t as much depth when it comes to the rotation.

Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, and Blake Snell make up the top three in the rotation. Beyond those three, there are certainly uncertainties. Nick Martinez headlines the next grouping of pitchers to compete for a rotation spot, but he comes with some risk. The veteran hurler is capable of pitching in the role, but you get a sense the Padres value him as a long-reliever capable of pitching in high-leverage situations.

If one of these four pitchers goes down with an injury, the Padres will be in deep trouble. It is hard to imagine Julio Teheran, Brent Honeywell, Miguel Cienfuegos, or Wilmer Font stepping up and eating innings in a valuable season for the Padres. Seth Lugo was signed to possibly compete for a rotation spot as well, but the veteran has struggled in that role throughout his career.He is no given to produce for the Padres.

Adrian Morejon, Ryan Weathers, and Jay Groome are capable young pitchers, but each will come with a certain amount of innings limitations. Especially Morejon, who is less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery and hasn’t thrown more than 65 innings in a single season.

The Padres need pitching depth as they had last season. Mike Clevinger, Sean Manaea, and MacKenzie Gore are all gone from last year’s roster. That trio of pitchers made 63 starts for the Padres in 2023, with Snell, Darvish, and Musgrove on the roster. That is more than one-third of the games played in 2022. A few pitchers will need to pick up the slack and eat innings, or the bullpen will be taxed at the end of the season when the Padres need them the most.

In recent weeks, there have been whispers that the Padres plan to utilize a six-man rotation to begin the 2023 season. This further complicates things for the Padres in a pivotal year.

Credit: NBC7

On the free agent market, there is little to be desired as far as starting pitchers. Michael Wacha represents arguably the best option. He threw well for the Red Sox last season and was probably their most reliable pitcher. The Padres are presently under the third tier of the MLB luxury payroll tax threshold. If they go over $270 million in payroll to begin the 2023 season, they will be taxed. Signing Wacha seems unlikely at this point. Especially given the fact that a quality return is far from guaranteed from the pitcher.

So what do the Padres do?

Last year, the club acquired Sean Manaea on April 3 as spring training was wrapping up. You get a sense that the same thing may happen this spring in Peoria. If you were to target one pitcher, Sonny Gray makes the most sense for the Padres.

The 33-year-old is a proven winner and can eat innings for the Padres in 2023. Gray is a free agent at the end of the season, and Minnesota will not require an arm and a leg for his services. The Padres have a decent prospect pool and could easily pay the asking price for the pitcher.

The problem comes down to payroll. Gray is scheduled to make $12.7 million in the last year of his contract. The Padres would blow past the tax threshold as there is nobody on the roster who could balance out a trade. The only possibility is Drew Pomeranz, who is due $10 million this coming season from the Padres. Pomeranz has pitched well when he toes the rubber, but getting him healthy has been an ongoing issue. Minnesota would be hard-pressed to take on his salary in a deal.

At this point, the Padres have decisions to make.

Do they include a few quality prospects along with Pomeranz and ship them to Minnesota for Gray? Is that even palatable enough for the Twins to take on the risk that Pomeranz has become? The Padres could possibly move a few prospects for Gray and blow passed the next tax threshold. That is probably the easiest thing to do, but what would Minnesota require?

Robert Murray of FanSided indicates that the Twins could trade Gray. Minnesota’s staff currently consists of Pablo LopezTyler MahleJoe RyanKenta Maeda, and Sonny Gray. Mahle, Maeda, and Gray all have deals that expire at the end of the season. The thought is that Minnesota will explore moving one pitcher from this trio of pending free agents.

If you are truly going all in, why not strengthen the starting rotation now? There is no doubt that is a weakness for San Diego.

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Gray went 8-5 last season with a 3.08 ERA in 24 games, and 119.2 innings pitched. He is capable. The two-time All-Star owns a career 3.56 ERA in 10 years of service time. The veteran will be highly motivated this season as this will likely be the last opportunity for the pitcher to earn a multiple-year deal this winter. Gray could command a three or four-year deal, depending on what he does in the 2023 season.

Bob Melvin would surely endorse a move for Gray, as the two spent five years together in Oakland. Those were Gray’s early years and arguably when he pitched the best in his career.

Preller and the Padres are focused on a championship, and Sonny Gray could be an important part of it. The Twins will explore dealing their trio of pending pitchers at some point. Why not bring in Gray for a whole season to enjoy the best from the right-handed pitcher? We shall see what the Padres do this spring. If anything.

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