Not much Gray area when it comes to value of Quintana contract to Cubs

BALTIMORE — If you believe every tweet you read, then you probably believe Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray was scratched from his start Friday in Oakland, even though he actually pitched.

Despite reports Friday that the Cubs had Gray in their sights for their next swift, bold move after their Jose Quintana blockbuster, sources said there’s been no recent movement on the Cubs-Gray front. And it’s not even clear what the Cubs could offer to get such a deal done, after shipping their top two prospects to the White Sox for Quintana.

Ask Cubs president Theo Epstein what his next move is, and he’ll tell you to “ask Wetbutt” — the mysterious Reddit user Wetbutt23, who had the Quintana scoop Wednesday night.

Epstein suggests he’ll take more of an “aggressive posture” toward the July 31 trade deadline to help the ’17 playoff push if the team’s play in the next couple of weeks dictates. He also suggested the search for another controllable, quality starting pitcher will continue this month — though it could carry into the winter and possibly involve a look at free agents.

Theo Epstein

“Right now we’re taking a step back, taking a break,” Epstein said before the Cubs’ post-break opener Friday against the Orioles at Camden Yards, “to kind of understand our roster and payroll dynamic looking forward now that we have Quintana in the fold.

“We’ll be active. And we’re going to see how we play, too,” he said. “If we don’t get hot, obviously we’ll have a little bit longer-term perspective. I like the look in our guys’ eyes. I think everyone’s refreshed and ready to put the first half behind us, while being accountable for it, ready to move on and play better baseball.“

Quintana’s contract — which includes an $8.95 million salary next year and a pair of $10.5 million club options after that — could be a key to anything the Cubs do with their roster and payroll over the next year or more as they try to stay under disproportionately low luxury-tax thresholds.

By contrast, the two free agents they expect to lose from their rotation — Jake Arrieta and John Lackey — make more than $33 million combined this season.

“It’s really significant when you acquire a really good player who’s got a very reasonable contract,” Epstein said. “You almost start thinking of a slot being created for a second player, perhaps in free agency that can come along with him that you can then afford because his contract is so manageable.”

That could be especially huge with core players entering arbitration years next winter and a potentially loaded free agent class coming a year later.

“It really does create a ton of options,” he said, “and we’ll be able to pack more talent on the roster because of his contract, there’s no way around it.”

NOTES: Kyle Hendricks, who has been on the disabled list since June 5 because of tendinitis in his hand, makes a second minor-league rehab start Monday, after which he’s expected to be activated. That could put him back in the rotation for the home series against the St. Louis Cardinals next weekend.

To make room on the roster for Quintana, reliever Dylan Floro was sent to Class AAA Iowa — for the fifth time this season.

With Quintana joining the rotation, Eddie Butler moves to the bullpen as a long man, for now.

John Lackey (plantar fasciitis) played catch Friday and remains on track to return from the DL on Tuesday in Atlanta.

Maddon said ace Jon Lester was moved to the back of the rotation out of the break for “just purely rest.” Left unsaid: He also has been dealing with a sore ankle.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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