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The Yankees acquire Sonny Gray, ready playoff push and the future

With Sonny Gray in pinstripes, the Bombers are set for this season and years to come.

Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Earlier this afternoon, the Yankees swung their second blockbuster trade of the summer. The team acquired Sonny Gray from the Athletics in exchange for Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler, and James Kaprielian. After brewing for weeks, the trade finally went down. Tanya reported the story here, but I have a few initial thoughts.

The cost to acquire Gray was well worth it

It had been rumored earlier in the month that the A’s were seeking center field prospects. In a way they got that. Fowler is a legitimate center fielder while Mateo has been learning the position. On the other hand, Fowler is injured and Mateo has spent most of his career playing shortstop. Kaprielian, a right-handed pitcher and former first round pick, is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.

I fully expected this deal to hurt. In a way it does. If healthy, all are nice prospects. That said, the Yankees kept Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Estevan Florial. That’s not to mention others like Justus Sheffield and Domingo Acevedo. The system is stacked and the Yankees acquired Gray at a bargain price. In short:

There’s no way to be mad at what Cashman gave up.

Gray gives the Yankees front of the rotation upside

Since the trade rumors began, I’ve seen a steady stream of Yankees fans complain that Gray isn’t a great pitcher. There’s no way to erase his disaster season last year, but for the rest of his career, he’s been a frontline starter. He’s just two years removed from a third place finish in the Cy Young voting, after all.

Through 97 innings this season, Gray owns a 3.43 ERA with sterling peripherals. He has a 3.24 FIP with an 8.72 K/9 rate. That’s among the best strikeout numbers of his career. Gray’s also a groundball machine. His 56.7% groundball rate is above his already excellent career average. That combination sets him up as an elite starter.

Credit: FanGraphs

Some argue that Gray profiles as a number two or three pitcher. I think that undersells his upside. He’s about to enter his prime years, and he already has elite seasons under his belt. It’s not a stretch to imagine him pitching like an ace during his stint in pinstripes. If he hits his ceiling, the Yankees will have themselves one special pitcher.

The Yankees aren’t settling for a Wild Card spot

The writing was on the wall after the blockbuster with the White Sox. The Yankees declared themselves as buyers. After the Jaime Garcia and Gray trades, it’s clear the Bombers aren’t looking for a chance to play in the Wild Card Game. They’re going for the kill. Winning the AL East in on their minds.

There’s still a lot of season left to play, but the Yankees have themselves up nicely. They have everything one would want in a contending team. A bullpen of doom? Check. Multiple frontline starting pitchers? Check check. The reincarnation of Babe Ruth in the form of Aaron Judge? Check check check.

It’s funny how a year can change things. This time last season, Cashman conducted a massive sale. Now, he’s buying for a legitimate contender. I get that some people want to hang on to the prospects, but the Yankees arrived ahead of schedule. Why prioritize next year when the division is eminently winnable?

The entire Gray saga was draining

Here’s a fun question: When was the last time the Yankees were so heavily connected to a player? Rumors circulated for weeks that the Bombers were in on Gray. The leaks dripped incessantly over the last few days. The only comparison that comes to mind is Cliff Lee, whose non-trade back in 2010 still stands out as a watershed moment for Yankees’ trade activity.

Fortunately this deal saw its way to completion. It looked dicey at times, but the two sides reached the finish line. This was a marathon, and felt rather unusual considering Cashman’s typically stealth modus operandi. It’s rare to see the Yankees engage the press in an attempt to negotiate prices. That was odd, and exhausting. It worked though, and that’s all that matters.

It will take years to ultimately evaluate this trade. For now, I think both sides walk away happy. The Yankees finally landed a young, controllable starter, while the A’s took home a hefty package of prospects. Gray steps up the lead the playoff push for New York, while Fowler, Mateo, and Kaprielian ready Oakland’s future. It’s hard to argue with that. The heavy lifting now over, it’s time to for the Yankees to get work and take the division.