1 reason why Reds' reunion with Sonny Gray could work and 3 reasons why it won't

Sonny Gray will be a free agent this offseason and could be on the Reds' radar.

Minnesota Twins pitcher Sonny Gray
Minnesota Twins pitcher Sonny Gray / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages
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Sonny Gray is bound to be one of the most popular free agent pitchers once the offseason officially begins. The three-time All-Star will hit the open market with a bevy suitors following one of the best seasons of his career.

Gray went 8-8 over 32 starts and posted an ERA of 2.79 with a 1.15 WHIP and 24.3-percent strikeout-rate. Gray will likely finish, at least in the Top 5, and perhaps the Top 3 in the AL Cy Young voting.

After all the troubles the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation endured in 2023, the front office will surely be looking to add to the team's pitching staff this offseason. Is Gray a good candidate to target this offseason? Let's look at the pluses and minuses when it comes to pursuing a reunion with Gray this winter.

The Reds have the money to sign Sonny Gray to a long-term contract

Sonny Gray told reporters following the Minnesota Twins' loss in the ALDS that, "Money is not the ultimate factor for me. Never has been." And all of the sudden Bob Castellini's ears perked up, right?

The Cincinnati Reds have never been shy about their tight-fisted approach to free agency. And the one time that Castellini opened up his wallet during the offseason, the Reds were left with $84-million invested into Shogo Akiyama and Mike Moustakas. Yikes!

Gray, while he may take a discount in order to find a situation he likes, isn't going to play for free. But money should not be the ultimate factor when it comes to a possible reunion between the Reds and Gray this offseason.

The only money Cincinnati has committed to the 2024 campaign is the $3-million owed to Hunter Greene. Aside from that, MLB Trade Rumors estimates that the Reds could be on the hook for about $18.6-million next season for their eight arbitration-eligible players.

A good number to look at would be the three-year/$63-million deal that Chris Bassitt signed last year with the Toronto Blue Jays. While $20-million per year seems like a lot, the Cincinnati Reds have very little money committed to the payroll for the next three seasons.

The Reds won't be looking for a long-term commitment

This could be the deciding factor between whether or not the Cincinnati Reds reunite with Sonny Gray. Quite frankly, this could dictate the Reds' entire offseason plans when it comes to addressing the team's starting rotation.

Do the Reds, who have a boatload of young and talented pitching prospects, want to make a long-term investment this offseason? While every Reds fan would love to see a veteran or two added this offseason, it's doubtful those same fans want to see some of the young talent stuck in the minors.

Heading into next season, if heathy, Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, and Nick Lodolo will unquestionably be part of the Reds rotation. Add Brandon Williamson, Connor Phillips, and Andrew Abbott, and Cincinnati is already sitting at six pichers for five spots.

Now, baseball fans know that pitching depth is crucial. It was on full-display for the Cincinnati faithful this season. Of the five pitchers who broke camp as part of the team's starting rotation, only one (Greene) ended the season on the active roster.

But rather than pursuing a pitcher like Sonny Gray who'll be looking for a three or four-year deal, the Cincinnati Reds may be looking to players like Alex Wood, Lucas Giolito, or Jack Flaherty who could be looking to re-establish their value by signing a one-year prove it deal and re-enter free ageny after 2024.

The Reds won't get into a bidding war with other teams looking to sign Sonny Gray

The Cincinnati Reds need starting pitching. But guess what? So does everybody else. Fans saw at the trade deadline how much starters were going for in terms of prospect capital. The Chicago White Sox made out like bandits after dealing away Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, and others to the highest bidder.

The Reds are not going to get into a bidding war with other teams for Sonny Gray's services. The Minnesota Twins are likely to attempt to re-sign the right-hander, and you can count the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals among the clubs likely to throw money at Gray this offseason.

History tells us that the Reds are rarely aggressive in the free agent market. Despite the fact that Cincinnati has the money to spend, it's hard to see Nick Krall and the Reds front office outbidding teams who are looking at one of the top pitchers on the market.

I don't believe that Cincinnati will be looking to come to terms with the bottom of the barrel this offseason. But given the number of pitchers in the Reds' farm system combined with those six starters already on the 40-man roster, it seems more plausible that signing a mid-tier starter is much more likely.

A pitcher like Brad Keller, Kenta Maeda, or even Michael Lorenzen seems like a much bettter fit for a team who's looking to restock the club from the inside. As interest in Sonny Gray increases, look for the Reds' involvement to decrease.

The Reds won't reunite Sonny Gray if receives a qualifying offer

This is where the Minnesota Twins have the greatest leverage in terms of negotiating with Sonny Gray. It's also the biggest reason why the Cincinnati Reds are unlikely to reunite with their former All-Star pitcher.

Gray is eligible for a qualifying offer this offseason and the Twins would be foolish not to extend one to the right-hander. Gray, in turn, would be foolish to accept it. Last year, players who accepted the QO received about $20-million.

But for Gray, he's likely to sign a deal that's worth triple or quadruple that over the life of the contract. Going back to Chris Bassitt's deal from last winter; if we're in agreement that Gray is likely to receive something similar, then by signing the qualifying offer, the 33-year-old would be leaving about $40-million on the table.

Sonny Gray's agent won't let him do that, so look for the Vanderbilt alum to reject the qualifying offer and become a free agent. But, having been offered the QO, any team that signs Gray is now on the hook for draft compensation.

In the Reds case, according to MLB.com, they'd be on the hook to lose their third-highest selection in the following year's MLB Draft. There's no way that the Reds, who are looking to build a sustainable franchise from the inside out, are going to give up a draft pick in order to sign Gray.

So, while the idea has merit and there's certainly every reason to believe that adding a pitcher like Sonyn Gray would help the Cincinnati to compete in 2024, it seems very unlikely that we'll witness a reunion during the offseason.