In a rare public announcement by Brian Cashman, the Yankees publicly placed Sonny Gray on the trade block trash heap. Are they sure he belongs there?
Baseball fans will recall the summer of 2017 when the name Sonny Gray put general managers on speed dial with other in a race to complete a deal with Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s. The Yankees and notably Cashman received plaudits from fans and team members for having added that elusive “extra piece” that would enable the team to finally seize that equally elusive 28th World Championship.
Sitting here today, we know how quickly and easily those dreams died. And we realize too, rightly or wrongly, the degree to which Sonny Gray played a role in those failures. A check of the numbers shows Gray at 15-16, a 4.51 ERA, and a 1.416 WHIP during his tenure with the Yankees. As always, though, stats only reveal a portion of the story.
More than the numbers, it was the “deer in the headlights” demeanor of Sonny Gray on the mound before 40,000 raucous fans at Yankee Stadium that likely caused Cashman to conclude that Gray is not a guy who can “handle” New York, much less the storied Yankees.
The real surprise, though, is the attention Sonny Gray is receiving from teams who are very interested in securing a deal with the Yankees. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “the Athletics have shown considerable interest in trying to reacquire him, but many other smaller-market teams, such as the Braves, Padres, Rangers, and Twins, have also expressed interest.”
So, this is twice now that Sonny Gray has lit up the trade market. For Brian Cashman, the lure of trading Gray for a couple of prospects he could then flip for a reliever is a possibility. But there are other possibilities, and perhaps these are ones the Yankees should be thinking about.
Sonny Gray is a starting pitcher. All of the Yankee’s chips this offseason have been spent in acquiring starting pitching, whether it’s James Paxton in a trade, or J.A. Happ as a free agent, using monies devoted to payroll. The staff is sturdier than it was but is it sturdy enough to make it through the grind of a seven-month season, including the playoffs?
As explained in depth in a column the other day, the Yankees sit precariously with a slim margin of error with their starting pitching, even with the additions of Paxton and Happ. CC Sabathia, bless his heart, will never deliver 30 injury-free starts, and Happ will be pitching in the playoffs at age 38. And who knows if the innings are already piling up on Luis Severino, especially given his demise in the second half of the last two seasons?
If nothing else, Sonny Gray can be an insurance policy, on board and ready to spot start or take a few turns in the rotation while, for instance, Sabathia rests his balky knee for a few weeks, an event we all know is coming.
Sonny Gray is not a basket case. And perhaps, a small-market team is where he belongs when he reaches free agency in 2020. But he is under control by the Yankees now, and he can save the Yankees from making a trade at the July deadline to pick up their wounded warriors when teams are ogling prospects in return.
Sonny Gray will be as tradable in July as he is now. Perhaps even more. Let’s hold on to what we got, at least for now. Because sometimes, caution is the better part of valor.
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