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A Gray trade could trigger domino effect

With A's pitcher forecast to be dealt before Deadline, Darvish, Lynn could be next
MLB.com @jonmorosi

Sonny Gray is scheduled to pitch Sunday for the Oakland Athletics.

Many in the industry expect he will be traded before then.

Sonny Gray is scheduled to pitch Sunday for the Oakland Athletics.

Many in the industry expect he will be traded before then.

Although we can't yet say a Gray trade is "inevitable," sources indicate one is very likely. Presuming it occurs, Gray's departure will lead to a cascade of activity ahead of Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Here's why.

Gray is the most widely coveted among the readily available pitchers in the Major Leagues, sources say. That's because of his upside (Cy Young Award finalist and All-Star in 2015), recent success (1.37 ERA over his past six starts), and contractual status (arbitration eligible through 2019).

MLB Buzz: Trade talk, deals and rumors

As one general manager said recently, GMs around the league are focused on multiyear assets -- much more than rentals -- at this year's Trade Deadline. Thus, Gray is drawing interest from a broader group of suitors than the Rangers' Yu Darvish or Cardinals' Lance Lynn, both of whom will be free agents this winter.

The Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, and Cubs were active suitors for Gray as of Friday, sources said, with the Braves continuing to monitor his market even though they're out of contention in the National League East.

If you believe you can win in 2018 or 2019, the thinking goes, then you have reason to call Billy Beane and make an offer for Gray.

In that respect, Gray's pitching calendar should benefit the Rangers and Cardinals. The fact that he's scheduled to pitch Sunday creates a "deadline before the Deadline," so to speak. Beane won't want to risk Gray's market collapsing because of an injury or worrying performance. Short of throwing a shutout, Gray can't do anything further to improve his value. So, the A's are wise to trade him before Sunday's first pitch.

As long as that happens, the remaining sellers should have ample time to find new homes for Darvish, Lynn, and -- less urgently -- pitchers under control beyond this year, such as the Tigers' Justin Verlander and Marlins' Dan Straily. The Rangers, in particular, will be in the favorable position of dealing with teams that are disappointed by losing out on Gray.

At least, that's the neat, orderly way the trade market could unfold.

What are the chances of that happening?

Trade ticker

... Another thing to remember regarding the market for Darvish (as well as other "rental" players) are the new Qualifying Offer rules that were set forth by the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified during the offseason. Under the new QO rules, only teams that receive revenue sharing can receive a first-round compensation pick when a free agent rejects a QO to sign elsewhere. According to sources, the Rangers are not on the list of 16 clubs that will receive revenue sharing, which isn't surprising given the size of their market. As a result, the best they can do if Darvish rejects a qualifying offer and leaves is a comp pick before the third round (likely in the 70s). These new rules could incentivize a trade, as Darvish would certainly bring pack a prospect package more valuable than a Draft pick in that range.

... The Dodgers and Rangers remained in discussions about Darvish on Friday, and sources said the Rangers have continued to insist that one of the Dodgers' top two prospects be part of the deal: right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler or center fielder Alex Verdugo.

While the Dodgers remain optimistic that they will land Darvish or Gray, sources say they've inquired to the Marlins about Straily, who is under control through 2020 and enjoying a second consecutive above-average season in the National League.  

... Among the most popular starting pitchers on the trade market, Verlander has a lower chance of being dealt than either Darvish or Gray. As of Friday afternoon, sources say the Tigers were not making substantial progress toward an agreement to trade their longtime ace.

... Some in the industry believe the Rangers would consider trading Cole Hamels. If that occurs, remember this: Based on the terms of his no-trade clause, the Astros, Cubs and Nationals are among the teams that can acquire him without his permission. (The Dodgers, by contrast, only could trade for Hamels if he waives his no-trade clause.)

... The Twins have indicated that they are willing to sell at the Deadline, given their recent slide in the American League Central, so it was noteworthy that the Nationals had a scout in attendance at Jaime Garcia's Twins debut on Friday night.

... Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista has drawn mild trade interest, sources say. The Indians are looking at right-handed outfield bats, but they are more enamored with the options in St. Louis, Tommy Pham and Randal Grichuk.

Jon Paul Morosi is a national columnist for MLB.com.