Sonny Gray's reported contract with Cardinals felt like perfect Dodgers fit

So are the Dodgers going in a different direction?
Division Series - Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins - Game Three
Division Series - Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins - Game Three / David Berding/GettyImages

When the Los Angeles Dodgers spend -- at least under Andrew Friedman -- they do it carefully. Look no further than the long-term deals for surefire MVP candidates Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. Even the botched Trevor Bauer signing was designed to allow the Dodgers to get rid of him before regression set in.

There's rarely been any excess spending, unless you want to count the micro investments in injured assets or reclamation projects since 2014. This team non-tendered Cody Bellinger and ditched Justin Turner when the time came to pay them more than what the front office deemed worthy.

So that's why there's perhaps a little confusion over LA passing on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, who reportedly agreed to a three-year, $75 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. Isn't that the exact kind of deal the Dodgers have been searching for over the last few offseasons?

This still would've given them the flexibility to pursue Shohei Ohtani/Yoshinobu Yamamoto/Blake Snell/Jordan Montgomery if they had so wished. And it's not like it would've mattered anyway, because the Dodgers need as many starting rotation additions as they can possibly handle.

Gray on a short-term deal at $25 million -- remember, Bauer signed for the same length but at $34 million a year (and Gray is better) -- was seemingly a best-case scenario for the Dodgers to open their free agency endeavors.

Sonny Gray's reported contract with Cardinals felt like perfect Dodgers fit

That was the Cardinals' third rotation signing of the offseason, too. Gray now leads the way with Miles Mikolas, Lance Lynn, Steven Matz and Kyle Gibson behind him. It's not exactly a group to write home about, but it's sure better than Bobby Miller, Walker Buehler coming off Tommy John surgery, and nobody else (unless you want to count a bunch of rookies).

Gray also fit the Dodgers' current window perfectly. A three-year deal would've taken him through the 2026 season. Freeman's a free agent after 2027. Only Betts, the obvious face of the franchise, would remain beyond that year. Such a deal would've allowed the Dodgers to stay financially flexible beyond 2025, even if they were to add Ohtani and another top name. Nobody else on the current roster is guaranteed a contract after the 2025 season besides Betts and Freeman.

The veteran right-hander might be 34 years old, but he's coming off a career year and has only gotten better since leaving the Yankees after the 2018 season.

It was one thing to miss out on Aaron Nola, to whom the Dodgers reportedly offered $165 million. Why would they go six years for someone entering his age-31 season but not three years for somebody entering their age-34 season, outside of Nola having the clear edge in the longevity department?

Maybe the Dodgers have others in mind, but it's puzzling to see them pass on a very affordable deal for a No. 2-3 starter that wouldn't prevent them from spending elsewhere.