Cubs could target Sonny Gray as fallback option if they miss on big free agent starters

The Twins right-hander has quietly been spectacular over the last two seasons, but his age could hinder his quest for a long-term deal.
Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game Two / David Berding/GettyImages

This winter's free agent starting pitcher class boasts the likes of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani (who won't actually pitch in 2024 due to injury), likely NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell and Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who could command the largest free agent guarantee ever for a player coming from overseas.

The Cubs aren't going to be serious contenders for Ohtani and it's a legitimate question as to whether or not they'd spend on a guy at the level Yamamoto could command, especially when Mets owner Steve Cohen seemingly prints cash at will and has his eyes set on the right-hander. So if that top group of arms comes off the board, Chicago will still need solutions - and Twins ace and free agent-to-be Sonny Gray is likely at or near the top of their list.

Cubs could add an impact arm to the mix via free agency in Sonny Gray

Gray, who turns 34 next month, is unlikely to command a long-term deal - or, at least he's unlikely to get one given he's heading into his mid-30s. But he should still be able to get a three or four-year offer given what he's done over the last two years in Minnesota.

Since the start of the 2022 campaign, Gray boasts a 3.05 FIP and 142 ERA+ across 303 2/3 innings of work. He's quietly put his head down and gotten results pitching in the Twin Cities but with Minnesota advancing to the ALDS, he'll get plenty of national attention this weekend.

His 2023 season was remarkable, with the veteran earning the third All-Star selection of his career en route to an MLB-best 2.83 FIP and 0.4 HR/9 over the course of 32 starts spanning 184 innings. Originally drafted by the Cubs out of high school back in 2008, Gray opted to pitch at Vanderbilt instead, turning himself into a first-round pick of the Athletics a few short years later.

Gray could slot in behind Justin Steele in the Cubs rotation, followed by some combination of Jameson Taillon, Jordan Wicks and Marcus Stroman or Kyle Hendricks, depending on if the former opts in and the latter has his option picked up by the team. Of course, there are a number of young arms knocking on the door, as well, including guys who pitched key innings this year like Javier Assad and Jordan Wicks.

It certainly wouldn't be the headline-grabbing move Cubs fans are anxious for, but if the team decides to push dollars toward reinforcing the bullpen and bolstering the offense, Gray shouldn't break the bank, but could still be a key part of the rotation picture as the team looks to emerge as a force in the National League.