Posted on January 17, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine

Sonny Gray Oakland A's

Image via usatoday.com

Even after an offseason full of big moves, the Houston Astros appear to be looking to make one more big splash, most likely in the form of a frontline starting pitcher. One pitcher they have been linked to at various times this offseason is Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics. Ken Rosenthal reported on Monday that the Astros have remained in contact with the A’s regarding Gray, indicating he remains one of their top targets.

The Astros are in desperate need of a frontline starting pitcher, as they look to complement what on paper appears to be one of the best offensive lineups in baseball. Houston is hopeful that Dallas Keuchel can bounce back after a disappointing follow up last season to his Cy Young year in 2015. The Astros also have a few young pitchers who show promise and enough depth to fill out a solid five-man rotation. However, Houston’s rotation is a far cry from some of the top rotations in the American League, most notably those in Cleveland and Boston.

Houston has been one of the teams most closely linked with the pursuit of White Sox ace Jose Quintana. In fact, the Astros were considered by some to be the favorites to land Quintana just a few weeks ago. However, the price to get Quintana is quite high, and Gray could be looked up as a fallback option in case the Astros can’t work out a deal with the White Sox.

Of course, Gray isn’t a pitcher who’s going to come cheap either, nor is he a sure thing coming off a rough 2016 season. A year ago, the price for Gray would have been astronomical, as he was one of the top young aces in baseball. His stock has taken a hit after he posted a 5.69 ERA in 2016, a season that also included two separate stints to the DL. However, it’s unclear just how much one poor season has affected his value on the trade market.

The A’s could certainly value Gray as if last year never happened, meaning the asking price for him could be nearly as high as the White Sox are asking for Quintana. If that were the case, the Astros may not be willing to pay Oakland’s asking price for Gray coming off an injury-plagued season. If Gray’s value has indeed took a substantial dip, the A’s may not want to sell low on him, knowing how high his ceiling is. This would confirm a high asking price for Gray, even coming off a rough 2016.

It still appears that Quintana is Houston’s top target right now, and that’s the way it should be. He’s under contract for more years than Gray, and based on Gray’s two trips to the DL last year, Quintana is also the more durable pitcher. Trading for Gray as a fallback option would carry far more risk than trading for Quintana, even if the price is slightly higher.

It’s smart for the Astros to be keeping tabs on Gray as a backup option, because they would certainly be wise to add a starter before spring training. However, looking at the potential price and risk of trading for Gray, the Astros should be further motivated to make a deal happen with the White Sox for Quintana, even if they have to overspend.

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