As Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reports, the Royals have “engaged in the bidding” for Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray. Nightengale also tweets that Kansas City will be “very aggressive” on Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn.
Kansas City, which has used 11 different starting pitchers this season, has lost its original fifth starter, Nate Karns, and one of his replacements, Matt Strahm, for the season due to injuries. For the time being, they’ve plugged veteran lefty Travis Wood into their rotation, but he’s struggled this season and has primarily been a reliever since 2015, so they’ll probably want to upgrade if they’re serious about making a late push for the AL Central title.
The 27-year-old Gray came out of the gates a bit slowly this year after beginning the season on the DL with a shoulder strain, but he’s bounced back over the past month and looks to be back to his old self heading into trade season. Through 14 starts this season, Gray has a 3.72 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 79 strikeouts and 26 walks over 84.2 innings. With Jose Quintana having been dealt to the Cubs, Gray—who’s under club control through 2019—is widely believed to be the best controllable starter on the market.
It seems extremely unlikely that the Royals would actually follow through with a Gray trade, primarily because they have five high-profile free agents (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jason Vargas) at the end of this season and need to save as much cash as possible to try to re-sign some of them. With Gray set to earn another raise in his second year of arbitration this winter, he’s not an ideal fit for Kansas City’s financial situation.
Lynn, 30, would be a much better fit for Kansas City, as he’s a free agent after the season and has actually pitched quite well this year, posting a 3.40 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 96 strikeouts and 38 walks in 108.2 innings. He’s unscored upon over his past two starts and could really be boosting his value as the deadline approaches.
With that said, the Cardinals are just two games under .500 and 5.5 games out of the NL Central lead entering play on Tuesday, so they’ve still got a solid chance to make a playoff run. They’re not expected to be big sellers and it’s unknown whether they’d be willing to deal Lynn, though they could replace him rather easily by plugging in rookie right-hander Luke Weaver, who is currently dominating at Triple-A Memphis, having posted a 1.92 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over 12 starts.
Kansas City has no prospects listed on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list, but they’ve got a solid collection of mid-level minor-leaguers, headlined by infielder/outfielder Hunter Dozier and starting pitchers Josh Staumont, Eric Skoglund, and Jake Junis. They probably don’t have enough prospects to pull off a Gray trade if teams like the Rockies, Brewers, Yankees, and Astros are in the bidding. They may even want to be cautious about giving up their top prospects in a deal for Lynn, as they could end up having a ton of open spots to fill this offseason.