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The Yankees’ way forward with Sonny Gray should be clear

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The Yankees hesitated momentarily with their plan to deal Gray before the season, but should press forward in trade talks

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports

Last month, a surprise announcement came that CC Sabathia had to undergo an unexpected heart procedure. Thankfully, the operation seems to have been a success, as Sabathia’s recovery has gone smoothly thus far, but for a moment it seemed to throw a wrench into one offseason quandary: when and where the Yankees would trade Sonny Gray.

Brian Cashman made news early in the offseason by announcing his full intention to trade Gray before the start of the season, and effectively declared his Yankees stint a failure. Though Gray obviously has talent, and has shown success away from the hitter-friendly domain that is Yankee Stadium, he ultimately wasn’t working out in New York and would be better off getting traded somewhere that he could be successful again. But once the sudden possibility of Sabathia not being ready for 2019 emerged, Cashman was hesitant to progress forward in talks for Gray.

Obviously, it’s understandable that if Sabathia couldn’t get healthy in time, having a major-league level pitcher on the roster would be preferable. The only options below Gray are prospects that have either have a season or less in the big leagues, like Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga, or pitchers who profile as known (mediocre) quantities like Luis Cessa. The problem is that the organization had already essentially cut bait with Gray by admitting so bluntly that things hadn’t worked out. The Yankees burned the bridge and are past the point of no return with Gray, and needed to do what was best for them as well as what was best for Gray.

Thankfully, CC did recover well, and is again on track to play right away. It’s been reported that Sabathia has been cleared to resume baseball activities and should be ready for spring training next month. The most likely scenario involves Sabathia in the Yankees’ five-man rotation when the season commences (once he completes his five-game suspension for throwing at Jesus Sucre last September).

This welcome development prompted Cashman to head back into tentative discussions for Gray. Jon Heyman of Fancred reported earlier this week that numerous teams remain interested in Gray:

The Brewers and Reds have long stood out as potential trade partners, and they appear to still be in the race. Heyman also mentions the Padres, as well as Gray’s former team, the Athletics.

Regardless of CC’s health, however, the Yankees should have recognized that this relationship is through. Entertaining the possibility of Gray coming to spring training with the Yankees is doing a disservice to him. Attempting to repair the relationship and smooth things over when pitchers and catchers report would have been awkward at best and untenable at worst, and balking for a moment might not help Cashman in negotiations to try and recoup some value for Gray.

Part of the hang up in trade talks, of course, could be related to the package that the Yankees are looking for in return, and Cashman is well within his rights to try and NinjaCash his way to a legitimate prospect or two, but odds are that won’t happen. Teams are well aware that though his road numbers are better, Gray is a buy-low option that looks enticing because of how little pitching is left on the market currently. The Yankees should prioritize getting something back for him, but it’s also beneficial to resolve a clear issue when the team seems to be rounding into shape with only a few moves left to make.