Twins add Sonny Gray, trade 1st-rounder Petty to Reds

March 13th, 2022

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At last, the Twins have their big rotation add.

Sorely needing starting pitching, the Twins swung a deal with the Reds on Sunday afternoon that will bring veteran right-hander  and Minor League right-hander Francis Peguero to Minnesota. Chase Petty, the Twins' first-round selection in the 2021 MLB Draft, will head to Cincinnati as the return.

Gray is a two-time All-Star who owns a 3.61 career ERA across nine MLB seasons with the A's, Yankees and Reds. He'll slot ahead of Dylan Bundy, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober in the Twins' rotation, and manager Rocco Baldelli strongly implied that Gray could take the mound for Minnesota on April 7 at Target Field for the Twins' Opening Day.

"Sonny Gray’s been on the radar for a long time for a lot of teams, obviously, but we think this is a guy who really establishes an anchor in our rotation, a guy that young players can look up to and someone we think is really going to lead us," Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. "The makeup is off the charts, and the pitcher, what he’s accomplished at the Major League level, is among the best in the game."


Twins acquire: RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Francis Peguero

Reds acquire: RHP Chase Petty

The Twins have been busy addressing their major needs coming out of the lockout, having already acquired starting shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Rangers on Saturday before trading for Gray on Sunday.

Behind Gray, Bundy, Ryan and Ober in the Twins' presumed rotation exists a hodgepodge of inexperienced young arms, including Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe alongside prospects Josh Winder, Drew Strotman and Jhoan Duran, who all finished the season in Triple-A St. Paul. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal have reported that the Twins are still looking to add another veteran to their rotation.

"We’re going to continue to work," Falvey said. "My guess is, as we know, with this condensed timeframe and guys showing up now, there’s still work to be done over the next few weeks, so we’ll see where that takes us."

Gray began his career with parts of five standout seasons in Oakland, including a third-place Cy Young Award finish in '15, before moving on to New York, where he experienced some well-documented struggles with the Yankees. Upon leaving the Bronx for Cincinnati, he rebounded with a seventh-place National League Cy Young Award finish in '19 and posted a 3.49 ERA in three seasons for the Reds.

In his three years with Cincinnati, Gray ranked 18th among all MLB pitchers in strikeouts (432) and 20th in ERA (3.49) among starters to pitch at least 300 innings in that span -- two spots behind the White Sox Lucas Giolito and five spots ahead of departed Twins starter José Berríos.

A big consideration for the Twins in their acquisition of Gray is the fact that he also carries a $12 million club option for 2023, giving Minnesota control over his age-33 season, when Kenta Maeda could also be healthy and give the Twins two solid veterans to anchor their rotation. Baldelli heard from his Reds counterpart, David Bell, immediately after the trade with a glowing review of Gray's clubhouse presence and work ethic.

"We're getting the right kind of guys to walk in there, to perform when the game starts, but also to show other people how it's done," Baldelli added. "We want guys that are going to show the next guy how it's done, and [Gray and Kiner-Falefa] are two perfect guys to add to our group."

Peguero, the other arm coming to the Twins, is a 24-year-old reliever who pitched for High-A Daytona last season, posting a 4.96 ERA, 36 strikeouts and seven walks in 32 2/3 innings.

Petty was the No. 26 overall selection by the Twins in the 2021 MLB Draft and had been clocked up to 102 mph as a high school pitcher in New Jersey. He had been excited to get to work ahead of his first full season in the Twins' organization and had even thrown three live innings off the Hammond Stadium mound at Minnesota's complex as recently as Thursday.

Though the Twins thought highly of his potential, the 18-year-old right-hander was the cost it took for them to acquire a productive, controllable, front-line starter of Gray's caliber -- and, at this point, their big league rotation needed it.

"That was a difficult conversation for us internally," Falvey said. "We felt really good about Chase. But in order to acquire starting pitching like Sonny Gray, you have to pay something. And we recognize that sometimes that’s painful, but we’re excited about the return."

"I know [pitching coach] Wes [Johnson] is a very happy man," Baldelli said.