The Yankees brought Gray over from Oakland at the 2017 trade deadline, in exchange for three prospects headlined by Dustin Fowler. Expectations were high for Gray, and saying he didn’t live up to them would be an understatement.
In 41 starts for the Bombers, Gray pitched to a 4.51 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. He’s coming off of an even worse year that saw his removal from the Yankee rotation in early-August. In the end, Gray appeared in 30 games, starting 23, pitching to a 11-9 record and a 4.90 ERA.
Gray’s future in New York was in question as the Yankee season came to a close. That didn’t last long. Yankees GM Brian Cashman made it known on one of the first days of the offseason that Gray’s career in pinstripes had run its course, “I think [Gray] is extremely talented. I think that we’ll enter the winter, unfortunately, open-minded to a relocation,” Cashman said. “I think to maximize his abilities, it would more likely be best somewhere else.”
Ever since those comments, it has been a matter of not if, but when Gray would be dealt. Thursday afternoon, Jon Heyman reported that the time was coming soon.
Since then, despite many conflicting reports, it has been the Reds that have been the team ahead of the pack for Gray, and it all came to fruition on Friday night.
While many wrote off Gray’s trade value, Cashman’s asking price was higher than expected. Why? Not only do teams feel that Gray’s struggles had a lot to do with him not handling the pressures of New York City well, but they had stats to back them up. Gray’s home-road splits are quite staggering. Last season, Gray pitched to an abysmal 6.98 ERA in 15 games in the Bronx, compared to a 3.17 in 15 on the road. Cashman and rival teams believe that Gray can bounce back, and I’m inclined to agree. Gray just could not handle the spotlight of New York. I don’t know why, but some people can’t. I still do believe that he can be a good pitcher on a smaller-market squad, and that’s why I believe Cincinnati took a chance. Gray is a good fit in Cincinnati, and he rounds out their rotation of Anthony DeSclafani, Luis Castillo, Alex Wood, and Tanner Roark. The Reds have the pieces to surprise some people in an already deep NL Central.
There was some hold up on the deal as the Reds wanted to negotiate a contract extension with the Vanderbilt product. They did, successfully, signing Gray to a three-year, $30.5-million extension on Monday.
Going back to New York is more than Yankee fans could’ve dreamed of. While, as I just said, Gray’s trade value is higher than most think, there were many, many, many, points last season where I would’ve been fine if Gray was shipped for nothing, so getting a top prospect in a deep Reds organization and a pick makes me ecstatic. First off, the prospect’s name is Shed and, to overuse a joke that’s been going around the Twitter-verse, he’s got many tools (rimshot). The former 12th round pick has shot up the Reds system the last few years, and was ranked as their seventh overall prospect by MLB.com at the midseason mark. As someone who is not familiar with the Reds’ farm system, I won’t act like I know what I’m talking about, so here is MLB.com‘s scouting report on the five-foot, eight-inch second baseman:
“Scouting grades:Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50′
Long broke out as a prospect in 2016, hitting his way across two levels of A ball and finishing among the organizational leaders in a host of offensive categories. He was at it again in 2017 and even though he struggled upon earning a promotion to Double-A and missed a few weeks with a wrist issue, he still finished third in the system in slugging percentage and fifth in home runs.
Long’s left-handed bat is his calling card. Despite his 5-foot-8 frame, Long has shown the ability to consistently impact the baseball. The power is legitimate, coming from outstanding bat speed and very quick hands. He does strike out some, but his walk rate went up in 2017 and he’s shown a willingness to use all fields. Possessing average speed at best, Long is an aggressive baserunner who swiped 21 bases in 2016, though that number decreased to nine in 2017. A catcher when he first began his pro career, he moved to second in 2015, allowing his bat to take off, and he’s worked to become an adequate defensive infielder.
As long as he can maintain average, or close to it, defense, Long should have a long career as an offensive-minded second baseman. His bat shouldn’t take too much longer to be ready for Great American Ball Park.”
They’ll have to change that last part to, “Yankee Stadium,” but I can’t help but love this move. They get a strong, lefty bat who will either come up in 2020 or 2021, or be used as trade bait to flip. They also get the 36th overall pick which, while the MLB Draft is a crapshoot, they could definitely use considering they won’t be using too many high picks in the next few years.
Gray is gone, and all Yankee fans should wish him luck. The experiment failed, but hopefully Sonny days are ahead for both the Yankees and Gray.
UPDATE: It didn’t take long for Cashman to flip the aforementioned Long, as he has quickly been flipped to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for prospect Josh Stowers.
Stowers was the 54th-overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, and ranked as the 10th overall prospect in the Mariners system. Like the Reds, I am not an expert on the M’s farm system, so here is MLB.com’s scouting report on the center fielder:
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 55 | Arm: 40 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Stowers hit .407 in the NCAA Division I tournament last spring as a sophomore, then flashed some interesting tools in the Cape Cod League, building a case for an early-round selection in the 2018 Draft. Thrust into more of a leading role as a Louisville junior, he struggled with the pressure early and his swing got out of whack, but he recovered to go on a tear as the Draft approached and finished with a .336/.477/.559 line with nine home runs and 36 steals in 62 games. Stowers’ late offensive surge netted him a second-round selection by Seattle, and he began his career in the Class A Short-Season Northwest League after signing for slightly below slot at $1.1 million.
Stowers took off once he smoothed out his right-handed stroke and took a more direct path to the ball. He’s at his best when he tries to hit line drives to all fields, and while he isn’t a power hitter, he has enough pop to produce 12-15 homers per year as a pro. Stowers has an extremely patient approach and a knack for stealing bases.
Scouts give Stowers solid-to-plus grades for his speed, yet there’s mixed opinion on whether he can stick in center field at the next level. It’s essential that he does so to profile as a regular, because he doesn’t have the power to profile on a corner. Stowers’ below-average arm will push him to left field if he can’t stay in center.
Now I just have to hope that, by the time everyone sees this, Stowers will still be in the organization.
Featured Image: Julie Jacobson, AP