Yankees: It’s Now Clear Everyone Lost the Sonny Gray Trade
By Adam Weinrib
The Yankees and Oakland A’s both lost the Sonny Gray trade.
Remember how excited you were when the Yankees completed their 2017 trade for Sonny Gray? Ahh, if only you could distill that feeling and keep it in a lil’ bottle.
While Gray’s ’17 was definitely better than you remember (because you remember it being a Carl-Pavano-Getting-Hit-By-A-Cab-esque disaster), his 2018 season was among the worst a Yankee starter has posted in modern history. 11-9, 4.90 ERA, and a very indicative home start where he was rapped around by the lowly Orioles and exited with a smile of relief.
It’s not what you wantttttttt!
The following offseason, Gray was dumped to the Cincinnati Reds, where he immediately became an All-Star again, which is a time-honored Yankee tradition. Luckily, fans didn’t linger too long on the exile — unsarcastically, when’s the last time any NYY fan thought about Gray?
That clock was reset on Tuesday night, though, when the 2020 MLB season opened a crack with a brand new transaction: Jorge Mateo, welcome to the Padres for a PTBNL!
What a throwback!
While that “player to be named later” might actually be halfway decent, considering teams currently aren’t allowed to trade players who are not in their 60-man roster pool, the deal still represents Oakland waving the white flag on the flagship prospect the Yankees sent over for Gray, back in the day.
Yes, it’s safe to deem this proposition a failure for both sides.
In case you need a refresher, Oakland sent Gray to the Yankees in exchange for Mateo, pitcher James Kaprielian, and outfielder Dustin Fowler. At the time, it was viewed as a moderate package, but the necessary price you’d pay for a potential ace. Now? It looks like two tweeners and a sad story.
Fowler hasn’t appeared in the bigs since 2018, when he got an extended chance to show off his power/speed combo in Oakland, but hit just .224/.256/.354 in 69 games. Now 25, Fowler hit .277 with 25 homers at Triple-A Las Vegas last year in the absolute bandbox of the PCL — tellingly, he didn’t get even one big-league AB out of it. Of course, Fowler tragically injured himself in the first inning of his Yankees debut in ’17, and his lore will always be marred by that.
Mateo was the A’s No. 7 prospect prior to the deal, and has otherworldly speed and impressive power — however, even his exemplary season at Triple-A last year was technically below average, thanks to the environment.
The juiced ball and elevation combined to make the PCL a uniquely friendly environment for burgeoning bats last year, and anything other than a spectacle camouflaged into the background.
Kaprielian, now 26, has faced a seemingly endless road back from injuries, and finally pitched well in 16 starts across three levels last year (4-3, 3.18). We’re crossing our fingers for his usefulness.
At this rate, however, Yankee fans can officially comfort themselves with the notion that Gray’s 2017 ALCS start was likely the single most valuable day that either team got from this much-ballyhooed trade. Wild.