MINNEAPOLIS -- Sonny Gray always believed that if he could just get back to a full, healthy season, his stuff would carry him back to the group at the top of the Majors -- and that belief was vindicated by a second-place finish in voting for the 2023 American League Cy Young Award, as announced Wednesday.
Of the 30 voters, 20 selected second place for Gray, who easily cleared third-place finisher Kevin Gausman of the Blue Jays for the highest Cy Young finish of Gray’s 11-season career. Pablo López earned a handful of down-ballot votes to finish seventh overall, marking the first time multiple Twins pitchers have received Cy Young votes since 2006 (Johan Santana, Joe Nathan).
Gray earned the highest finish for a Twins pitcher in AL Cy Young voting since 2020, when Kenta Maeda finished as the runner-up to Shane Bieber. The last Twins pitcher to win the award remains Santana, who won his second in 2006.
“A lot of memories, a lot of learning, a lot of good things,” Gray said following his 32nd and final start of the regular season. “I don’t think you ever stop learning within this game, from one year to the other, whether it’s pitching, you’re constantly trying to get better. For the most part, I was fairly consistent. I felt very happy about making all of my starts whenever my name was called.”
Gray had used his offseason improving his conditioning to keep him more healthy after he missed time for the Reds in 2021 and the Twins in ’22 -- and it’s no coincidence that he received his first Cy Young votes since ’19, the last season in which he’d made more than 30 starts.
Going back even further, the only other season in his career in which Gray made at least 30 starts had been 2015 -- the only other year in which he received Cy Young votes, finishing third in AL balloting while with the A’s.
All that happened around the difficulties of his stint in New York, from which he learned and emerged a better pitcher in Cincinnati and, now, Minnesota, having developed and honed the sweeper that sat among the best pitches in all of baseball.
“Getting back to being myself, getting back to having that competitive fire that, I mean, over the course of a career and over the course of seasons, that you may kind of lose at times,” Gray said on the award show on MLB Network. “You try to do too much at times and you try to be somebody you're not. You try to please other people rather than just doing your thing, going out there being yourself and doing you.”
With this new offseason routine and his highest Cy Young finish under his belt, Gray is eyeing his first look at free agency, which he officially entered on Tuesday by declining the one-year, $20.325 million qualifying offer from the Twins.
Even entering his age-34 season, Gray has shown he’s pitching as well as ever -- and with a relatively shallow market, he appears to have chosen a good time to rise back to the top of his game.