While the two championship league series are getting underway, the Minnesota Twins are at home trying to determine what moves need to be made to ensure the team is still playing this time next year.
Minnesota was bounced from the postseason in the ALDS, and the loss to Houston revealed some areas of the roster that need to be fixed up over the winter. Already the Twins are dealing with a concerning injury to Alex Kirilloff that threatens to wipe out most of his season next year, and there's hope that Byron Buxton can get healthy enough to actually play the field.
One of the biggest question marks is Sonny Gray, who is set to enter free agency this winter. Gray will have a qualifying offer from the Twins but the expectation is that he's going to test the market and see if can parlay his Cy Young-worthy season into one final big contract.
Gray hasn't ruled out the possibility of returning to Minnesota but he was notably non-commital when speaking about his future following the ALDS. Money isn't the only thing Gray is thinking about, but it's likely that he has one contract left before his career is over.
It would be wise of him to leverage the success he had this season into a nice payday.
Minnesota won't be alone in pursuing Gray this winter. They have an inside track, but teams are already starting to line up outside of his door to offer him a deal.
MLB Rumors: NL team emerges as potential suitor for Sonny Gray
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the St. Louis Cardinals are expected to 'strongly pursue' Gray this winter and are potential competition the Twins would need to outbid.
"The St. Louis Cardinals will strongly pursue Minnesota Twins free agent Sonny Gray this winter," Nightengale reported in a recent column looking at the lay of the land heading into the offseason.
St. Louis is the first of what is expected to be many teams looking to poach Gray from Minnesota. Alongside Pablo Lopez he helped turn the Twins pitching staff around, and his work this season will likely put him in the passenger seat of the Cy Young race.
Gray might have imploded in Game 3 of the ALDS, but that game doesn't define his season or the importance he had on the Twins success. He routinely turned in ace outings only to get no run support and either be handed a loss or not factor into the decision.
He finished the season with the third-best ERA in all of baseball, trailing only Blake Snell and Gerrit Cole. Gray finished above those two in WAR, with his 5.3 WAR being the fourth-best among pitchers. Perhaps most notably, he finished with the best FIP in the entire league, something that highlights how his 8-8 record speaks more of how little support he got at times through the year than whether he was actually a winning pitcher.
Had the Twins given him more run support during the months when the offense went cold, he might be in the driver's seat for AL Cy Young. Gray had one of the best seasons of his career, and team saw what he did for Minnesota and will want to pay him accordingly to do that for them.
St. Louis is just the first team, as it's looking like the Twins will have plenty of competition when it comes to retaining Gray's talents for next season.