The New York Mets are in desperate need of starting pitching depth. Whether David Stearns sticks to the plan of evaluating talent for 2025 or goes all-in on 2024, the Mets are non-competitive pitching-wise. Behind Kodai Senga, the rotation has no guarantees. Jose Quintana did not pitch last season until July, Joey Lucchesi only made 9 starts, and Tylor Megill pitched to an ERA close to 5. Even if the Mets are building towards 2025, they simply do not have enough starters to get through a full season.
With the Mets being reluctant to part with top prospects in 2022 and 2023, it is unrealistic to expect a major trade to upgrade the rotation. This leaves free agency as the only real option. Yamamoto is an intriguing target, but many teams will be bidding for his services. Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, and others will all demand long-term contracts. This leaves the last top pitching free agent: Sonny Gray
Pros: Gray's performance and contract expectation
Many New Yorkers remember Gray as another Brian Cashman trade flop. Bottom line- he was horrendous with the Yankees in 2018. However, Gray has been remarkable since being traded to the Reds in 2019. He pitched to a 2.87 ERA in 175 innings pitched in 2019, earning Cy Young votes along the way. With the Twins the past 2 seasons, he pitched to a 3.08 and 2.79 ERA respectively, with his most impressive stat being just 8 homeruns allowed in 184 innings last year.
A pitcher of this caliber would normally warrant a 7-year contract worth over $200 million in this free agent market. However, Gray will be 34 years old next year and has been in the league for over a decade now. This benefits the Mets because Steve Cohen has shown a willingness to pay a higher AAV over a shorter term. This would have him signed through age 36, which is not albatross. If it does not work out, Gray's contract would be very tradable at this value considering the market for Scherzer and Verlander this past deadline
Cons: The New York factor and qualifying offer ramifications
The caveat to Gray's performance throughout his career is that he has always posted great numbers in smaller markets. He was the ace in Oakland, Cincinnati, and Minnesota, places where the media is not relevant, and fans rarely boo their players. Compare that to his time in New York, where Yankee fans booed Gray off the mound in 2018 and the media was constantly at his locker following games. The New York factor may have contributed to his failures with the Yankees and will make Stearns hesitant about taking that risk.
The most impactful factor to signing Gray are the ramifications of him turning down the qualifying offer from the Twins. If the Mets were to sign Gray, they would forfeit their 2nd and 5th round draft picks and $1 million dollars in international bonus pool money. Unless Stearns has a change of plans for 2024, the Mets would be sacrificing building their farm system further if they were to sign Gray this offseason.