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Sonny Gray has been just what the Yankees needed

The right-hander is as good as advertised.

New York Mets v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Heading into the trade deadline, the Yankees needed rotation help in the worst way. By July 28th, the staff managed a 4.12 ERA across 577 innings. Injuries forced Michael Pineda on to the disabled list and Masahiro Tanaka proved ineffective. That’s not to mention the looming innings limit for rookie Jordan Montgomery. While the Yankees made a small trade to land Jaime Garcia, the real help came on deadline day. Brian Cashman went big-game hunting, acquiring Sonny Gray from the Oakland A’s.

Some questioned the trade when it went down, citing Gray’s questionable injury history. Others noted his results were more along the lines of a mid-rotation starter. They didn’t find him worthy of a package of top prospects. A small section of the Yankees Universe took umbrage with the deal because the Bombers “weren’t ready yet”. The 2017 season, they argued, wasn’t the right year to contend.

Thankfully Cashman went ahead and made the trade. In five starts with the Yankees, Gray has pitched to a 2.70 ERA with a 3.46 FIP. His worst start in pinstripes came on August 20th, when he allowed two runs over five innings against the Red Sox. That game was a grind — Gray didn’t record a single strikeout — but can hardly be considered disastrous. Even when he didn’t have his best stuff, Gray still kept the Yankees in the game. That’s the mark of a front-line starter.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. When healthy, Gray has been one of the game’s best pitchers since 2013. His most recent dominant run dates back to June 25th of this year.

This stretch doesn’t appear to be a blip on the radar, either. Gray’s peripherals over this period have been remarkably consistent. His strikeout and groundball rates tell the story.

Credit: FanGraphs

There are no major dips or spikes after June 25th. Gray has been excellent at racking up strikeouts and inducing groundballs. Those two results are a pitcher’s best friends. His consistency leads one to believe this is the real level at which Gray can pitch. It’s no mirage or fluke. When healthy, Gray has ace upside and that’s no exaggeration.

For their part, the Yankees recognize how important Gray is to the rotation. “He gives us a chance every time he goes out there to win the ball game. We know what we’re getting any time he gets on the mound, and we’ve got a good chance to win games,’’ Austin Romine told the New York Post. This success hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates.

The Yankees needed rotation help when they acquired Gray. He’s given then staff the shot in the arm it needed. Now he’s going to play a pivotal role down the stretch. If the Bombers want to catch the Red Sox, they need to shut down high powered offenses. Gray gives the team a chance to do just that. He’s an elite pitcher with a track record of consistency. While it remains too early to call the trade one way or the other, it’s clear that Gray has given the Yankees exactly what they needed.