The St. Louis Cardinals have signed Sonny Gray to a three-year contract worth $75M. Gray departs from the Minnesota Twins after spending the last two seasons with them. The Twins offered Gray a qualifying offer worth $20.325M over one season, which he declined.
Gray was one of the top pitchers on the free agent market this offseason after being a finalist for the American League Cy Young. He posted a 2.79 ERA and 24.3% strikeout rate across 32 starts. Despite the stellar ERA, Gray finished with eight wins and eight losses.
Among qualified starters, Gray ranked first in MLB for home runs per nine innings (0.39), third for ERA, 25th for strikeouts per nine innings (8.95), and 25th for bases on balls per nine innings (2.69).
St. Louis Cardinals Sign Sonny Gray
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Sonny Gray with the Minnesota Twins
Here's a look at the three finalists for the AL Cy Young 🏆
— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) November 15, 2023
Gray landed with the Twins after the Cincinnati Reds traded him in March 2022. He spent all of 2022 and 2023 in Minnesota. Both seasons were successful for the veteran pitcher as he combined for a 16-13 record and a 2.90 ERA across 303.2 innings. The righty also struck out 8.89 batters per nine innings and allowed 2.70 bases on balls per nine.
According to Spotrac, Gray suffered two hamstring injuries and one pectoral injury in 2022, forcing him to 54 days. This limited his innings to just 119.2 in 2022.
Sonny Gray's Fantasy Impact with the St. Louis Cardinals
The Sonny Gray signing was a strong one, imo. This year, he picked up a sweeper that was #1 by results & #22 by Stuff+ (min 100 IP), always had premium spin, four-seam is still above average if not super fast, and if you just use his projections with aging, StL paid market rate.
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) November 27, 2023
Gray is now the ace of the Cardinals staff, as they are expected to turn their focus on the bullpen.
In 32 games with the Cardinals, Montgomery finished with a 12-12 record, 3.31 ERA, and 169 strikeouts across 184.2 innings. According to FantasyPros, Montgomery was the 25th-best pitcher according to their Value-based ranking (VBR).
I expect Sonny Gray to have a similar season and be a top-25 pitcher. It would not surprise me one bit if Gray had a repeat of his success from 2023 and finished as a Cy Young finalist again. However, a Montgomery-esque stat line is much more plausible.
Sonny Gray's Departure Impact on the Twins
With Gray & Maeda departing, this leaves the #MNTwins w/ a rotation of:
GM Thad Levine still has work to do to fortify the rotation. Expecting Polanco & Kepler to be used to bring arm(s). #MLB
— MLB Marathon (@MLBMarathon) November 27, 2023
Losing a Cy Young Award candidate is always going to hurt a team. Luckily for the Twins, they have dependable replacements.
Their five starters will be Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack, and Louie Varland. Prospects Simeon Woods Richardson, Matt Canterino, Brett Headrick, and David Festa could also compete for the fifth spot.
The only starters in this rotation that should be drafted in Fantasy Baseball are Lopez, Ryan and Ober. The other options should still be watched closely to begin the year but are not worth drafting.
Final Thoughts on Sonny Gray
Sonny Gray just put up a stellar season in 2023, and one can argue that it wasn't even the best season of his career. At 34 years old, the righty still has plenty left in the tank. I expect him to be one of the best pitchers in 2024.
It's way too early to get into mock drafts, but I'm comfortable ranking Gray as a top-20 pitcher in Fantasy Baseball for 2024.