The Sonny Gray sweepstakes could have a new entrant: the Seattle Mariners.
A source with knowledge of the team's thinking suggested that Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto might be preparing to make a run for the A's right-hander, who stands as one of the controllable jewels of this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"He is going for it these next two years," the source said, noting that although Seattle's system is somewhat depleted, Dipoto has shown a willingness to make big moves. "If he is going for it, he might as well go completely in."
Gray, 27, is making $3.575 million this season, having agreed to a one-year deal last January to avoid arbitration. The right-hander is eligible for arbitration in each of the next two offseasons, leaving him under team control through the end of the 2019 campaign.
Since becoming the Mariners' GM in September 2015, Dipoto has made more than 40 trades, including two last week. He acquired right-hander David Phelps from the Marlins for four prospects -- including outfielder Brayan Hernandez, the organization's No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline.com, along with pitchers Brandon Miller (No. 16) and Pablo Lopez (No. 22).
Dipoto then sent his No. 2 prospect, Tyler O'Neill, to the Cardinals for left-hander Marco Gonzales. Dipoto has said he would only move his top prospects for controllable starting pitching -- a description that fits Gray, who is under team control for two more seasons after 2017.
Although intradivision trades aren't all that common, the Mariners and Athletics have done business as recently as this past offseason. Oakland dealt Danny Valencia to Seattle for Minor League right-hander Paul Blackburn in November, then swapped Minor League catcher Jason Goldstein to the A's for lefty Dillon Overton in January. (Overton was claimed off waivers by the Padres in June.) Dipoto has also made trades with American League West rival Texas, though he hasn't done so with either Houston or Los Angeles since joining Seattle's front office.
To land Gray, Dipoto would likely have to include outfielder Kyle Lewis, the club's top prospect.
"Obviously, he will trade anything not nailed down," the source said.
Eyeing the Tiger
Another controllable starter is beginning to gain some traction on the trade market, though unlike Gray, this one is far from inexpensive.
The Tigers have been fielding offers for Justin Verlander, who is under contract for $56 million in 2018-19. One AL GM termed the majority of talks among his peers as "idle conversation" for now, though he predicts that Verlander will be dealt by next Monday's Deadline.
The Tigers are shopping Verlander aggressively, the GM said, and although Detroit doesn't appear willing to eat much of the $56 million he's owed in 2018-19, there are a number of clubs interested in the former AL MVP Award and AL Cy Young Award winner.
Yu gotta believe
While some teams are seeking controllable arms only, Yu Darvish remains the most impactful pitcher available on the market. Rentals don't figure to garner huge packages during the next week leading up to the Deadline, but Darvish could wind up being the exception to that rule.
"Most teams are hesitant to pay for rentals, but Darvish might be the biggest exception this season," an executive said. "There are a couple of rentals that will help some teams, but Darvish is the only really game-changer in that department."
The Yankees, Dodgers, Astros and Cubs have all been connected to Darvish, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.
The Rays took a chance on right-hander Sergio Romo, acquiring him from the Dodgers on Saturday in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later. But that won't end Tampa Bay's pursuit of bullpen help, especially after Brad Boxberger coughed up the lead in the eighth inning Sunday against the Rangers.
According to a source, the Rays continue to monitor the entire bullpen market, adding that it's "safe to say" that Tampa Bay will continue to seek at least one more arm.
Phillies All-Star Pat Neshek could be a potential target, as Philadelphia has been heavily scouting the Rays' system in recent days.
Mark Feinsand, executive reporter for MLB.com, has covered the Yankees and MLB since 2001 for the New York Daily News and MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.