Cafardo: ‘Don’t be shocked’ if Phillies make play for Sonny Gray

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves are in the midst of a weekend series that seems fairly inconsequential when you consider that the Phillies have the worst record in the sport and the Braves would need a historically successful second half to make the playoffs. But the two teams are far from irrelevant when you discuss the long-term picture of the league. 

The Braves organization is deep in young talent, with ESPN.com's Keith Law ranking them as the No. 1 overall farm system in his midseason organizational rankings. The Phillies were an honorable mention for Law's top-five list, which scares the rest of the league when they consider how much of a dent the Phillies can also afford to make in trades and free-agency because of their deep pockets. 

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe says that while neither of these teams profile as traditional buyers, they are worth keeping an eye on in regards to Oakland Athletics RHP Sonny Gray: 

The Phillies and Braves could both add and subtract before the deadline. Both teams are trying to set themselves up for the future so don’t be shocked if they pursue Sonny Gray given that there likely won’t be a lot of starting pitching available in free agency.

It's important to give a nuanced look at what Cafardo has to say. This is not a report. But, there's reason to think it's not just speculation either. 

Earlier this month, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports noted that the league views the Phillies as 'a leviathan-in-training.' Beyond the Thomas Hobbes allusion, Passan reported that the Phillies had 'poked around' on controllable starting pitchers. I speculated at that time that Gray could have been one of the names that they poked around on. Perhaps Cafardo hasn't heard enough regarding the Phillies or the Braves to specifically report that either team is interested in Gray, but has heard whispers and is connecting the dots on what makes sense. 

Gray, 27, has had his next start pushed from tomorrow until Monday, which is after the trade deadline. Joel Sherman of The New York Post noted that the A's did this because suitors asked them to, eliminating any injury risk. Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported this afternoon that the New York Yankees have had the 'heaviest' talks with Oakland regarding Gray's services. The guess here is that if he's moved before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, it will probably be to the Yankees. It almost certainly won't be to the Phillies or Braves.

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However, if the A's elect to hold onto Gray past Monday, he could make quite a bit of sense for either National League East team this offseason. In 2017, he's got a 3.43 ERA in just under 100 innings, with his FIP (3.24) and xFIP (3.30) suggesting he's been even better. He should be entering the prime of his career, doesn't have a ton of mileage on his arm and is under team control through the 2019 season

From the Phillies' perspective, it would probably take quite the package of young talent to acquire Gray. Sixto Sanchez is probably not in play, but Franklyn Kilome, Adonis Medina, JoJo Romero, Ranger Suarez and Kevin Gowdy are among the arms that could be of interest. It would be interesting to see which position players the Phillies would be willing to move in this trade or any major trade, especially when you consider their strong organizational outfielding depth. 

While some would rather the Phillies wait on their young pitching depth to reach the major leagues together, a bulk of it is years away from the majors. While they may all be very good major leaguers, they could have injuries or hit a wall as they climb up the minor league ladder. Gray is at the major league level now and we know what he is. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, both of whom can become free-agents after 2018, also know who he is and would probably be much more intrigued in joining a team with Gray at the top of the rotation than one with a ton of strong pitching prospects in the lower levels of their minor league system.