Sonny Gray has been bad this year. Through four starts he has an 8.27 ERA and is only averaging four innings per start, which is nothing close to what you want to see from one of your best pitchers. Gray was once one of the best young arms in the game, yet an injury-riddled 2016 season has put his future in question. It’s why the Athletics were even willing to trade him away in the first place. If he’s damaged goods, the Yankees are going to be in trouble, and there’s already evidence to suggest he might be.
In 2016, Gray missed time with multiple arm injuries, including a lat issue and a forearm strain. That last one is scary because there’s no telling if it could become a recurring issue and require more invasive corrections. There’s no point in speculating whether or not a player is hurt before the team reports as much, but it’s possible he’s dealing with diminished stuff because there’s something wrong with his arm. As Aaron Boone reported after last night’s start, Gray was dealing with diminished velocity, and that’s never good to hear. At the very least it is something to keep an eye on in the future.
Sonny Gray’s velocity was down tonight from his last start at Boston, Aaron Boone said. They saw a lot of 90-91 mph, and Gray was unable to reach back for more.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 21, 2018
Under normal circumstances, this could be a situation where they eventually place him on the disabled list as a precaution or try to skip his next start to give him some time to figure it out. Unfortunately, the Yankees are in a position where they can’t afford to do that right now. They have already been getting disappointing results from Jordan Montgomery, Masahiro Tanaka has been inconsistent, and CC Sabathia has yet to regain his form from his own recent DL stint. What makes things worse is the team doesn’t have much to call up at the moment.
The only major league ready pitchers in the organization are Luis Cessa and Domingo German. It doesn’t say much when the Yankees did everything they could to avoid having to rely on them while CC was on the mend. No one in Scranton is off to a particularly promising start to the season, and that includes top prospect Chance Adams. His disappointing performance in spring training didn’t help his chances of making it to the big leagues, but his early struggles have definitely taken him out of the conversation.
The Yankees entered the season knowing they would probably have to make a trade at the deadline, but it’s now worth asking if they will even make it at this point. It’s far too early to start thinking about making a meaningful trade, and there is no one left on the free agent market worth giving innings to, unless you like the idea of Ubaldo Jimenez or Matt Garza in pinstripes. Guys like Justus Sheffield and Domingo Acevedo may still be a year away from the Bronx, so it could come to fishing through minor league free agents and other discarded players.
The hope is that Sonny Gray will be fine after he figures out what the problem is, but the Yankees took a chance when they acquired him, hoping he could stay healthy. We don’t know what’s wrong with him yet, but the team is stuck right now. They don’t need his continued struggles but they also can’t afford to lose him. If Gray is beginning to bend, they will need to figure out a way to alleviate the pressure before he breaks. Even if that means treading water again with what little depth they have.