The New York Yankees, five years removed from their last AL East title, on Monday continued their quest for refreshed relevance by acquiring right-hander Sonny Gray from the Oakland A’s.
A somewhat robust early market for Gray, the one-time All Star who is 2 ½ seasons from free agency, in the final hour before the trade deadline narrowed to the Yankees, who for Gray dealt prospects Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian to the A’s, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. In addition to Gray, the Yankees are getting $1.5 million in international bonus money.
Source: Gray to Yankees done. Fowler, Mateo, Kaprelian coming back.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2017
He joins a rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Jaime Garcia and Jordan Montgomery, a rotation that lost Michael Pineda to Tommy John surgery, a rotation that has performed better than expected and therefore has aided in the Yankees’ 2017 rebirth.
Aaron Judge arrived earlier than expected, and helped drag the offense along with him, and in a summer that could have gone either way the Yankees in the past week acquired Gray, Garcia, Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.
Gray, 27, will be free-agent eligible following the 2019 season. In his career, which dates to his debut four summers ago, he is 44-35 with a 3.45 ERA, and an All-Star appearance and a top-three Cy Young Award finish, those in 2015. He was 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA across 16 starts for the A’s.
Against the occasional bias against shorter right-handed pitchers – he’s 5-foot-10-ish – Gray has been effective when he has been healthy, which he was in his first three seasons and was not over parts of his next two.
How one views Gray, then, would depend on which Gray one sees today, and for how long one believes Gray will continue to be that Gray, if the precision stuff or the nagging injuries will follow.
The Gray who changes a season and helps lead a rotation into October is the one who was 28-17 with a 2.91 ERA and 1.138 WHIP in 2014-15. He made 64 starts and threw 427 innings in that period. Also, the Gray of the past 16 starts, all since May 2.
Compared to last season, his walks per nine are down and his strikeouts are up. All good signs.
Also, there’s the Gray of October 2013. A rookie who’d made 10 regular-season starts by then, Gray started two games against the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander in the division series. In Game 2, he threw eight shutout innings. In Game 5, he allowed three runs in five innings. The Tigers won the series, and yet it was Gray who was the revelation, as he’d faced down a loaded Tigers lineup – Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez were in the middle – and been unshakeable.
After the heavier workloads of 2014 and 2015, however, Gray suffered through a cluster of injuries. He was on the disabled list with a strained right trapezius last May. He was back on the disabled list in August with a right forearm strain. And he began this season on the disabled list because of a lat strain. He made his first start on May 2.
He’d lately been on a nice roll for the A’s. In his past six starts he’d allowed six earned runs in 39 1/3 innings, while striking out 27 and walking seven. Four of those starts have come at pitcher-friendly Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, where his season-long ERA is 3.08.