We are mere weeks away from the 2017 trade deadline, and what the Yankees need most of all is starting pitching. They actually needed to upgrade the rotation well before they lost Michael Pineda for the year to Tommy John surgery. Now a rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, and...anyone else will need to find an upgrade. Who better to add to the roster than Oakland Athletics ace Sonny Gray?
Over the first three seasons of his career, Gray had a 2.88 ERA and showed himself to be the main piece of the next Oakland dynasty, if such a thing ever came to be. He had two 3+ WAR seasons in a row and was a serious Cy Young candidate in 2015. If the A’s ever traded him, he’d cost the entire farm for a franchise player. Now, in 2017, the team is lucky to regain some semblance of value for him.
First of all, it’s good to see Gray right the ship after a disastrous 2016 season. He had proven himself to be one of the best in the league at a young age before a 5.69-ERA season made him look like a has-been. He dealt with arm trouble all season long and it looked to be the end of his run as a top-10 arm in baseball.
This year he has a much more favorable 3.72 ERA with a 3.46 FIP, proving that he is pretty close to performing at his real talent level. Things have returned to his career norms, but with a higher strikeout rate of 8.4 K/9 and lower walk rate of 2.8 BB/9. On the surface, everything looks to be back to normal, but as Jeff Sullivan just pointed out, there is some proof that he may not be back to his old self. If it’s true that his pitches aren’t hitting the strike zone like they once were, it’s hard to figure out how the Yankees should value him.
The Yankees are in desperate need for pitching now and for the future. Tanaka has the ability to opt out of his contract, CC is a free agent, and Pineda will now be out entirely. The team needs some stability at the top of the rotation, and whether he’s the same pitcher or not, Gray represents a solid upgrade from what little they have.
A trade for Gray would offer the Yankees multiple years of stability at the top of the rotation. At least that would be the plan. Gray is under team control through the 2019 season, giving any acquiring team 2.5 years of good value. The Yankees could conceivably partner Gray with Severino next year, and if Tanaka decides to stay, that would just be gravy. The problem, of course, would be figuring out what is fair value for Gray at this point.
The Cubs recently surrendered their top two prospects in Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease in order to acquire Jose Quintana from the White Sox. Quintana, of course, has been better, healthier, and is under team control for an extra year compared to Gray, but there’s no doubt that the A’s pitcher is the next best option on the market. The Athletics also look like they are ready to sell now that they have sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson over to the Nationals in exchange for a healthy helping of prospects.
The thing is that if the Yankees are to make a deal for anyone at this point, it needs to be on a multi-year basis. Since the team’s hot start, they have fallen off to the point where it’s hard to say that they should go all in this year. Right now it might be better to hold onto the best prospects, but if they can add someone like Sonny Gray, who can help now and next year, he might be worth a top prospect or two.