Yankees: Examining The Sonny Gray Experiment

Now that Sonny Gray has been traded to the Cincinnati Reds, we will take a deep examination into his forgettable time in New York. 

Back on July 31, 2017, the previously rebuilding New York Yankees found themselves in the playoff hunt thanks to huge performances from homegrown stars Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino. General Manager Brian Cashman would be a buyer at the trade deadline when just the year before he was a seller.

Cashman had been hoarding prospects for several years and had plenty to spare. There were several starting pitching options available on the market, including Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Oakland’s Sonny Gray.

Verlander seemed to be trending down as he posted a 4.73 ERA in the first half of 2017 and would cost $28 million dollars in 2018 and 2019 ($8 million paid by Detroit). Sonny Gray performed better in the first half of 2017, posting a 3.90 ERA. After missing time in 2016 on the disabled list, it looked as though the 27-year-old was the smart play — Gray would be under team control through 2019 at a modest $7 million per year.

Cashman pulled the trigger at the deadline sending prospects James Kaprielian, Jorge Mateo, and Dustin Fowler to the A’s.

The trade was widely looked at as a victory for the Yankees.

Gray was serviceable down the stretch for the Yankees, posting a 3.72 ERA in 65.1 innings pitched. In Game One of the 2017 ALDS, Gray had a clunker against Cleveland, giving up three earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched. In the Game Four of the ALCS, Gray bounced back against the eventual World Series Champion Astros, allowing two runs (one earned) in five innings pitched.

Verlander, of course, would be moved to Houston in August where he would dominate down the stretch, winning all five of his starts and posting a 1.05 ERA in 34 innings pitched. Verlander dominated the Yankees in Game Two and Game Six of the ALCS and took home the series MVP.

Still, even after the season, the Sonny Gray trade looked like a win for the Yankees.

Sonny Gray in 2018

All of the Yankees hopes regarding Sonny Gray came crashing down in 2018. Gray was terrible at home, posting a 6.98 ERA and giving up 11 home runs at Yankee Stadium in just 59.1 innings pitched. The Yankees lost confidence in Gray, and Gray perhaps in himself, and he was relegated to the bullpen.

Yankees: How Will Gary Sanchez Perform in 2019?

There were some bright spots, however. Gray was dominant on the road, posting a 3.17 ERA in 71.0 innings pitched, and even did well out of the bullpen with a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings pitched. Still, it seemed as though Sonny Gray could not pitch in the Bronx. Brian Cashman announced during the offseason that the team would look to move Gray.

Several teams were mentioned as possible suitors for Gray, but it was the Cincinnati Reds that wanted Gray the most and, indeed, signed Gray to a three-year extension after acquiring him. The Yankees sent LHP Reiver Sanmartin along with Gray in the deal.

After taking several months to develop, the Gray market started to heat up this past week and then turned into more than just a two-team swap.

Fans and pundit alike have called it a good trade for both teams.

New Yankees

In addition to this year’s 36th overall draft pick, the Yankees acquired 21-year-old outfield prospect Josh Stowers. Stowers slashed .260/.380/.410 in 244 plate appearances in A- ball for the Mariners this past season. Stowers is still very early on in his development and he is two years younger than Shed Long, who the Yankees most likely would have needed to add to the 40-man roster at some point this year.


It’s too bad that Sonny didn’t work out in New York. He obviously has some great movement on his pitches, and he has shown what he can be, albeit only on the road. Unfortunately, he left a bad taste in the mouths of many Yankees fans and apparently the front office as well. Hopefully, he can turn it around for Cincinnati.

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