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.
Yankees will trade two injured prospects (Dustin Fowler & James Kaprielian), plus Jorge Mateo, for Sonny Gray. @jeffpassan had it.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) July 31, 2017
The trade was widely looked at as a victory for the Yankees.
Honestly, I thought Sonny Gray would fetch more than that, seeing as Kaprielian and Fowler both have potentially career-altering injuries.
— Scott White (@CBSScottWhite) July 31, 2017
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.
Revisiting the Sonny Gray trade:
Jorge Mateo: .230/.280/.353 (Lower stock than he had at time of trade)
James Kaprielian: DNP (Hasn't pitched in a game since 2016)
Dustin Fowler: (69 games with A's: .224/.256/.354) (Most promising in trade)
— Yankeesource (@YankeeSource) November 17, 2018
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.
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.
The Yankees announced today that they have acquired 2B Shed Long and a Competitive Balance Round A pick in the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for RHP Sonny Gray and LHP Reiver Sanmartín.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) January 21, 2019
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.
Sonny Gray does indeed have an extension with the Reds, a source tells ESPN. @Ken_Rosenthal had the details: Three years, $30.5M on top of his $7.5M salary this year, with a $12M club option for 2023. Four guaranteed seasons, five years of control max at $50 million.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 21, 2019
What surprises me most about the Sonny Gray trade is not the Yankees getting decent value without picking up a penny, but Gray settling for such a modest extension. A merely solid 2019 would have set himself up to do much better than $30mn/3. Makes you wonder about his confidence
— The Captain's Blog (@williamnyy23) January 22, 2019
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.
The three-way trade is official:
NYY gets: OF Josh Stowers (@joshstowers7), 2019 Draft pick
CIN gets: RHP Sonny Gray, LHP Reiver Sanmartin
SEA gets: 2B Shed Long
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) January 21, 2019
Fans and pundit alike have called it a good trade for both teams.
Yankees did well to acquire 36th pick in this year’s draft plus OF josh stowers (54th pick last year) plus lefty reiver sanmartin for sonny gray off the year he had. Very smart to deal with the team that sought an extension for sonny.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 21, 2019
The Cincinnati Reds clearly believe Sonny Gray is going to return to form based on the price they paid. Shed Long is a big leaguer. And the draft pick they gave up is valued in the $10M range by teams. That's $20M+ in value alone before guaranteeing Gray $38M over four seasons.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 21, 2019
The Reds will have Sonny Gray under contract for the next four years at $38 million, for a $9.5 million AAV. He'd only need to be worth about 4.3 WAR over the next four years to reach that value. pic.twitter.com/aobmnSBbE7
— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) January 21, 2019
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.
— Alex Kielar (@yankeescave7) January 21, 2019
Thank you Sonny Gray. Yankees fans will miss you 🤧 pic.twitter.com/26aLGsRHk9
— Luigi 🇩🇴 (@luigitheplatano) January 20, 2019
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.