Sonny Gray's desire to be a Cardinal kept him away from a reunion with division rival

Sonny Gray said no to a Reds reunion so that he could fulfill his desire of being a St. Louis Cardinal this offseason.
San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals
San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

If you're a St. Louis Cardinals fan, the phrase "They wanted to be here" is typically received with some frustration and used as jokes against how the front office constructed this team. Well, in the case of Sonny Gray, his desire to be a Cardinal helped keep him away from one of their division rivals.

In a recent story from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Wittenmeyer added more context to Gray's free agency, specifically the Reds' pursuit of him. According to Gray, the Reds were one of the first teams to contact Gray and made a very similar offer to the Cardinals, but his desire to be in St. Louis trumped that potential reunion.

Oddly enough, the Cardinals did not begin contact with Gray until closer to when they actually signed him, so this really proves Gray's desire to play in St. Louis that he waited out the offers he had on the table in order to get an opportunity to play for the Cardinals. He cited the incredible vibe at Busch Stadium and the Cardinals' competitive nature as reasons why he had them in his sights a year before he even hit free agency.

During the offseason, there was a lot of buzz about the Cardinals, Reds, and Atlanta Braves being top suitors for Gray due to their proximity to his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

While a recent national poll of MLB players seemed to indicate that St. Louis wasn't the same draw for players as it used to be, it clearly helped the Cardinals land a big fish like Gray and also helped them secure deals with the likes of Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. Players who want to play on the coast or in a huge market will always exist and there is nothing the Cardinals can do to change that, but it's clear that there are a lot of players who still dream of wearing the Birds of the Bat.

Had the Cardinals not landed Gray, I have a tough time believing they would have been able to acquire the top-of-the-rotation starter they needed to add this offseason. Yoshinobu Yamamoto's market was out of their price range, Tyler Glasnow and Dylan Cease's trade value seemed too high for them to meet, and there just were no names out there after Thanksgiving that would have filled that void for St. Louis. Perhaps they would have made a stronger push for Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, but neither arm has been good this season.

Not only has Gray been a perfect fit for St. Louis on the field, but off the field, his leadership has been a much-needed addition to the clubhouse and organization. The way Gray goes about his business, the way he pours into other teammates, and even some of his experience with player development have caused shifts to happen in the Cardinals' clubhouse and things the front office prioritized.

While it doesn't sound like it was easy for Gray to say no to going back to a place he was familiar with, it does speak volumes about how much he wanted to be a part of this iconic franchise. Cardinals fans are very glad that Gray decided to come to St. Louis.