Jon Gray spent nearly a decade in the Colorado Rockies organization, from being drafted by them in 2013 until reaching free agency after the 2021 season. Although there was apparently mutual interest in Gray staying in Colorado, the club was ultimately outbid by the Rangers, as they signed Gray to a four-year, $56MM contract.
The Rockies opened a series against Texas today, giving the Colorado media, including Danielle Allentuck of The Denver Gazette, a chance to catch up with Gray and discuss recent events. Once he became a free agent, the Rangers aggressively pursued Gray, not only in terms of their financials, but also their sales pitch in general. “It felt good to have someone say ’You are this good and this is why and we’re going to help you get there,’” Gray said.
The Rockies were apparently not pleased with this turn of events, as Allentuck reports that the relationship between Gray and the team soured to the point that there was “a little bit of fighting” as he considered taking the offer to move to Texas. There’s evidently no lingering bad blood, as Gray says that he would have been “on the fence” if the Rockies had matched the Rangers’ offer, and the sides are apparently on good terms now. Still, it’s noteworthy that the organization is developing a track record for having friction with its marquee players.
Just over two years ago, Nolan Arenado went public with his dissatisfaction, saying “there’s a lot of disrespect from people there that I don’t want to be a part of.” Before the 2021 season, he would be traded to the Cardinals. At the trade deadline last year, Trevor Story wasn’t dealt, despite being an impending free agent on a non-competitive ball club. After the clock ticked down to zero and Story was still in Colorado, he also spoke publicly, saying he was “confused” and adding, “I don’t have really anything good to say about the situation and how it unfolded.” He would eventually sign with the Red Sox. In Gray’s case, the club apparently made him an extension offer in the $35-40MM range, but then didn’t make him a qualifying offer at season’s end, ultimately losing him for nothing. Although the situation with Gray doesn’t seem quite as dramatic as with Arenado or Story, that still makes three consecutive star players that have left town with at least a hint of tension.
While outside observers can only know so much about the inner workings of the team, it surely doesn’t help matters if the club is building a reputation as one that is difficult to work with. They already face challenges luring in free agents, especially pitchers, due to the difficulties of playing at elevation. That’s compounded by the fact that they share a division with aggressive and competitive teams like the Dodgers, Giants and Padres. The appearance of conflict with important players will likely only exacerbate those burdens.