Contract structure, not actual dollars, may have paused Reds' pursuit of Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray signed with the Cardinals, but the Reds were rumored to be in the mix.
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) delivers a pitch
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) delivers a pitch / Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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Not all contracts are created equal. Sometimes it's not about the money itself, but how the money is allocated.

Sonny Gray signed a three-year/$75-million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this week, but it was rumored that the Cincinnati Reds were actually in negotiations with the Cy Young Award-finalist as well.

Ultimately, Cincinnati came up short. The Reds will now see Gray a fair amount over the next three seasons as he'll be toeing the rubber for their NL Central Division rival.

Contract structure, not actual dollars, may have paused Reds' pursuit of Sonny Gray

But one look at the way Sonny Gray's new contract is structured offers some insight as to why the Cincinnati Reds ultimately passed on a reunion with the three-time All-Star.

According to the Associated Press, Gray will be paid $10 million in 2024, $25 million in 2025, and a whopping $35 million in 2026. Gray's deal also contains a $30 million team-option for the 2027 season with a $5-million buyout.

That is heavily back-loaded contract, and one that the Reds were right to avoid. While Gray was the runnerup to AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole this past season, is the right-hander really worth $35 million at age 36?

Furthermore, the Cincinnati Reds are likely to have several young players of their own in the coming years who the club would like to sign to contract extensions.

Eventually, players like Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Noelvi Marte will be taking home more than just the league minimum.

The Reds have been rumored to be targeting other big-name pitchers like offseason like Shane Bieber and Tyler Glasnow. The Reds ultimately missed out on Sonny Gray, but there are a lot of other top-flight pitchers who are still available this winter.

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