In true 11th-hour, MLB trade deadline fashion, after all the swirling rumors and much anticipation across baseball, the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics finally came to terms on a trade that will change the landscape of baseball for the next several years to come.
Just a little over an hour before the league’s 4pm non-waiver trade deadline, the Yankees acquired starting pitcher Sonny Gray from the A’s in addition for three of the Yankees’ top 12 prospects: outfielder Dustin Fowler (#4), infielder Jorge Mateo (#8), and pitcher James Kaprelian (#12).
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 31, 2017
In the 27-year old Gray (6-5, 3.43 ERA in 16 starts with Oakland), the Yankees get the front-end-of the-rotation starter they have been coveting for a while. The need became even more apparent when Michael Pineda, who was set to be a free agent for the first time this winter and looking to get paid, underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this month. Between that and the uncertainty at the back end of the rotation, the Yankees had to make a move to improve the rotation.
General manager Brian Cashman knew this, and then proceeded to do what he does best when it comes to trades; seizing opportunity. He did so last year with the Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller trades that brought back significant hauls headlined by Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier, respectively, making what was once a farm system lacking big-time talent into one of the premier systems in all of baseball.
He did so again with this deal. Gray is under club control through 2019, fitting in seamlessly with the Yankees’ mentality of simultaneously creating a winning culture while holding onto long-term young talent. Gray immediately becomes either the Yankees’ 1 or 2 starter along with Luis Severino, with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and the recently-acquired veteran Jaime Garcia filling out the rest of the staff.
Should all of these guys remain healthy and Tanaka finds some sort of consistency that has seemed to betray him this season, to go with the new four-headed bullpen monster of Kahnle-Robertson-Betances-Chapman, there is no reason not to think that the Yankees can win not only a division title, but perhaps even a pennant this season and for the next several years to come.
What did the Yankees have to give up? Well, first it needs to be said what they didn’t have to give up. Athletics general manager Billy Beane initially insisted that he receive at least one of the Yankees’ two best prospects in the aforementioned Torres (who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and should be ready to go for 2018) and Frazier, who has already shown glimpses of his potential at the major-league level.
Cashman insisted that they were off-limits and kept to his word. In addition, they were able to hold onto their #5 overall prospect in 19-year old outfielder Esteban Florial, who the Yankees love due to his raw power and speed, and #7 prospect in third baseman Miguel Andujar, who only went 4-4 in his major league debut last month in Chicago.
The Yankees were able to hold onto all of these guys. They did have to give up on Fowler, who the Yankees saw as a potential five-tool player before he ruptured his left patellar tendon last month in his first game in Chicago. Fowler is out for the rest of the season. Mateo, who A’s GM Billy Beane reportedly was “infatuated” with, is one of the fastest players in all of minor league baseball, with 39 steals so far in 2017 between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. He probably could have been a September call-up as a situational baserunner, but it’s hard to see where he fit long term with the acquisition of Torres at shortstop and an extremely crowded outfield (Mateo was getting some more playing time in the outfield in 2017).
Finally, the Yankees traded their first-round pick from two years ago in Kaprelian, a starting pitcher with frontline potential but just had Tommy John surgery in April. So for Oakland, two of the three pieces won’t be able to contribute for them until next season at the earliest, which fits into with their long-term rebuild and fielding a competitive team if and when they open a new ballpark in the Bay Area.
For the Yankees, this represents the best of both worlds. They get a pitcher who can help carry the team deep into this October and the next several Octobers, while holding on to their most prized prospects. Gray’s first start reportedly for the Bronx Bombers won’t come until Thursday in Cleveland in what could be a possible first-round playoff matchup with the Indians. The Yankees are hoping that Gray continues to pitch like the borderline ace he has shown to be at times. 13 of his 16 starts this season have been quality starts (6+ innings pitched with 3 or less earned runs given up), with 10 starts of two runs or less.
Hopefully there will be a lot of Sonny days and October Sonny-sets on the horizon.