Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, has made a mark for himself as a thief in disguise when he picks up the telephone to talk turkey with another GM. In July, he was not dealing from a position of strength as everyone in the baseball world knew he needed a starting pitcher. He nabbed one anyway, in spades.
When the Yankees approached this year’s trade deadline in July, Brian Cashman was caught in a dilemma of far-reaching proportions. The question of the moment was should I stay or should I go?
Cashman, who had doggedly stuck to his belief that the organization shouldn’t do anything rash regarding dealing the hard-earned prospects they had acquired the previous season. And further, the next few years supersede whatever fortunes the Yankees could generate this season with the team solidly in contention, but still very iffy as to whether or not they could stay there.
He also went out to grab Todd Frazier from the White Sox, blocking the Red Sox, who were in desperate need of a third baseman at the time, not knowing that local Jersey-boy Frazier would react like a kid in a candy store when he joined the Yankees.
There was a cost attached to all of these trades and naysayers lined up at the time with a list of names like James Kaprielian, Zack Littell, Dietrich Enns, Blake Rutherford, and let’s just stop there, asking how Cashman could let these guys go.
But the one trade that is likely to affect the future of the Yankees the most is the deal for Sonny Gray. And in four or five years, the shoe is going to be on the other foot in Oakland when Billy Beane is asked, how could you let him go for so little.
Winner, winner, winner
Gray has winner written all over his face when he pitches. He’s fearless, and he brings everything he has to each pitch he throws with designs of the next pitch he’ll throw to the same batter in a sequence that comes to him instinctively.
Ask him about the grip he uses on his slider, and he’ll look at you dumbfounded because he doesn’t have a single grip he uses for his slider. He makes it up as he goes along, confounding not only the hitter but sometimes his catcher too as the ball darts this way instead of that way.
Diminutive in stature, reminding of someone like David Cone, Gray will often appear to be wild, but it’s only to set up the one he’ll throw two pitches later, getting the batter to get himself out.
Coming from the barren land of what is supposed to be a major league team in Oakland, Gray is still adjusting to pitching for the Pinstripes and the glare of New York City.
And it would be a mistake to only look at Gray’s won-loss record since coming to the Yankees (3-4). Look instead at the most telling stat for any pitcher, his ERA, which stands at 2.55, along with the seven hits he averages over nine innings, and you’ll have more than a snapshot of what Gray is capable of delivering from start to start.
Yankees have pitching power that lasts
Only 27, the Yankees have full control of Gray, arbitration years included until 2020 when he becomes eligible for free agency. Together with Luis Severino, who is even younger, the team has, I was going to say perhaps, but why not say it out loud, the best one-two punch of any team’s starting pitchers in the American League, and maybe in all of baseball.
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And what’s even better, the promise of that future has a good chance of being fulfilled this season. And even though I put forth a radical idea Joe Girardi should consider as a pitching strategy for the one-game shootout if the Yankees don’t capture the Division, choosing between Severino and Gray is a win-win toss-up for who gets the nod.
There are some guys who labor through everything when they pitch. They don’t look like they’re having fun because they aren’t having fun.
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And mostly, it’s because they never heard the succinct response of Bill Lee, adequately nicknamed Mr. Spaceman, when a reporter happened to ask him, “Bill, what would you consider your best pitch to be?” Lee’s answer, strike one!
Sonny Gray “gets it.” And we only see a tiny portion of what Gray’s value will be to the Yankees over the next few years.
Cashman fooled them all again. Hedging his bets once again until the last possible moments before the clock struck four, against as many as five or six teams also in the hunt, combined with the salivating GM in Oakland, Cashman got it done.
And much as in the way Yankees fans look back at the legacy of Gene Michael and the team with a lasting power he built for the franchise, Cashman has added a decisive and positive piece to the Yankees future in Sonny Gray.
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