Sonny Gray had a miserable season for the Yankees in 2018 and since coming to New York before the trade deadline of 2017 Gray just hasn’t pitched well at all. It turns out now that the Yankees clearly made a mistake trading for Gray and this offseason it’s highly likely he’ll be traded elsewhere. Where might he land?
The Yankees have a lot of questions to answer this offseason but one thing we can all assume is Gray will be traded at some point this winter. GM Brian Cashman made that loud and clear after he was brutally honest about Gray in his first offseason press conference a few days after the Yankees were eliminated from the postseason.
Here was Cashman on Gray per the New York Post:
"“It hasn’t worked out thus far,’’ Cashman said at a press conference at Yankee Stadium. “I think he’s extremely talented. We’ll enter the winter, unfortunately, open-minded to a relocation. To maximize his abilities, it would be more likely best [for him to be] somewhere else.”"
Things just never really worked out for Gray during his season and a half tenure with the Yanks, going 15-16 with a 4.51 ERA in 195.2 IP. He was decent in 2017, going 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA, but this season he pitched so poorly he was kicked out of the starting rotation for good by August. Gray was especially terrible pitching in front of the home crowd where he had a 6.98 ERA, allowing 11 HR and a .318 opponent batting average.
So where will Gray be traded to? The team that makes the most sense for him and the one that could give the Yankees something useful back in return is the Cincinnati Reds.
After the Reds hired former Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson on Wednesday many have now linked Cincinnati as a potential trade partner for the Yankees. Johnson was not only the Brewers pitching coach for the last three seasons but prior to that, he was Gray’s college pitching coach at Vanderbilt where he served in that role from 2002 to 2012. Gray obviously has experience with Johnson and if there’s anyone who can help him turn his career around it would be his former college coach.
Gray struggled a ton with the Yankees but with the A’s he was an All-Star and one of the best pitchers in the American League. During his time with the Yanks, he was never injured and his stuff was pretty much the same which leads you to believe that he just couldn’t handle the mental aspect of pitching in New York.
That’s not uncommon as we’ve seen plenty of big-name pitchers (AJ Burnett, Jeff Weaver, Javy Vasquez to name a few) struggle when they join the Yankees and then succeed again after they leave. That could be the case with Gray as a chance of scenery and a switch to the National League could be all he needs to get back to what he once was because the talent is still there.
What could the Yankees ask for in return?
As for the Yankees, they should look to match up with Cincinnati for two reasons. Second basemen Scooter Genett and closer Raisel Iglesias. Obviously, a trade of Gray straight up wouldn’t get them either one of those players in return but if the Yankees included a couple more pieces from their prized farm system a deal could get done.
Now when I say, Gennett and Iglesias, I don’t mean the Yankees should acquire both players. I mean one or the other because it would take a massive haul to get both of them and I doubt either team would be interested in making that kind of a blockbuster trade.
Gennett makes the most sense given the Yankees needs this offseason because he’s a power hitting second basemen who hits left-handed. Gennett is coming off a career year and if the Yankees acquired him he could slide right into their order and give them a lefty power source they’ll desperately need. We all know Didi Gregorius is going to be down for the majority of the season, so adding Gennett could help make up for his offensive production and allow the Yanks to shift Gleyber Torres to shortstop.
Gennett is also set to become a free agent after the 2019 season so he’s already a trade candidate, to begin with. The Reds are in a rebuild and aren’t going to make the playoffs for at least the next season or two so if they struggle next year come July a lot of teams will be calling for Gennett. The same can be said for Iglesias who was already on the block and almost dealt last season.
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Considering how the Yankees may lose impending free agents David Robertson and Zach Britton this winter you can bet that Brian Cashman will look to replace them with someone just as good. Iglesias could be that guy. He could slide right into the Yankees pen and give them another dominant setup man to pitch the seventh inning before Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman close things out.
Iglesias has quietly been one of the top relievers in baseball over the past three seasons and he’s due to enter free agency himself after the 2020 season. Like Gennett, any deal to acquire him would take a lot but the Yankees could start with Gray and then throw in a mid-level and an upper-level prospect to pique the Red’s interest.
The Reds need pitching in the worst way and the Yankees have plenty of young arms in their system to choose from in addition to Gray. Top prospect Justus Sheffield and third-ranked prospect Jonathan Loaisiga should be off-limits in talks but guys like Chance Adams, Domingo Acevedo, or Garret Whitlock could be included to get a deal done.
This all just speculation and either Gennett or Iglesias would make the Yankees better than they are now. However, this is about Gray and finding a new home for him by any means necessary. Hopefully, the Yankees can get a good player in return for him that could make an impact on next years’ team but really as long as they just find a new home for Gray I think they’ll be happy to do just that.