Sonny Gray has joined the New York Yankees, where expectations are always high.
With the waiver deadline fast approaching, the Yankees and Athletics pulled the trigger. In one of those rare deals that appears on the surface to be a win for both sides, the Oakland Athletics have parted ways with their 27-year-old starter. They receive a decent haul in return, getting three prospects: Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian, and Dustin Fowler.
After a recent surge, the Yankees find themselves sitting atop the A.L. East, 0.5 games on top of Boston. With the recent news of David Price going to the disabled list, this deal kills two birds with one stone. New York sures up its pitching staff, which is reeling from the loss of Michael Pineda, while simultaneously preventing their rivals from acquiring Gray to replace the beleaguered Price.
While the prospects they dealt are currently top 10 in their system, the Yankees still managed to hold on to top prospect Gleyber Torres (top spot despite his recent TJ surgery), as well as not departing with a recently promoted Clint Frazier, a coveted trade piece. Mateo, normally a middle infielder, has been played in the outfield in the farm system because he was blocked by Torres, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorious. Middle infield is not a weakness in the Bronx.
Kaprielian, a relief pitcher, and Fowler, an outfielder, are both major league caliber players. They are a great haul for Oakland. Fowler has actually already made the major leagues, but had to be carted off the field in his major league debut when he injured his leg pursuing a foul ball.
It has to be assumed that the A’s got the best deal they could here. Gray was a top prize in the trading market, and I would expect they received several offers. They are clearly in a rebuilding phase, without much hope of competing with the far superior Houston Astros. It will take a similar rebuild to compete with Houston, who have an embarrassment of riches in their young, elite core.
Meanwhile, New York acquires a proven Major League arm. Gray finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting in 2015. This season, Gray has re-established himself after a rather sub-par 2016. His ERA sits at 3.43, including 1.48 over the last 4 weeks in which hitters are only batting 0.187 against him.
He has repertoire and the experience to be a number two starter, certainly a guy who New York could feel comfortable handing the ball to in a game 2, or even a winner-take-all wildcard game should that be necessary.
It will probably play out that Gray settles into the rotation as the second starter behind current hot hand and rookie All-Star, Luis Severino. Masahiro Tanaka was expected to be the No. 1, but Tanaka is struggling to find himself (5.09 E.R.A. in 21 starts in 2017). It’s not out of the question that Sonny Gray usurps him. If I’m Joe Girardi, and the playoffs started today, I think it would make much more sense to give Gray the ball ahead of Tanaka.
Add in a rejuvenated C.C. Sabathia, and the Yankees suddenly have respectable rotation that could definitely play in a five or seven game series. Should Tanaka find his rhythm, the rotation is solid.
Best of all, Gray’s contract gives the Yankees control over him until 2020. While this is definitely a “Buy” moment for New York, they are not just getting a rental, as is the case with a lot of these deals made by contenders. They can now say with certainty that they’ve acquired a formidable arm that could help them in future playoff runs as well.
Oakland received help for their rebuild. New York received a quality arm to bolster their rotation, while also preventing Boston from doing so, and Gray is theirs to do with as they please for two more seasons after this one.
Both teams must be pleased.