No Gray area on this matter.
Forget 2018. The Yankees are going for it this season, too.
After strengthening their bullpen less than two weeks ago by adding David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and bolstering the back end of their rotation by trading for Jaime Garcia on Sunday, the Yankees completed a deal with the A’s on Monday, acquiring righthander Sonny Gray for the front end of the rotation.
General manager Brian Cashman was not forced to surrender top young players such as Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier, but his first major deal with longtime A’s boss Billy Beane was far from pain-free. The Yankees parted with the highly regarded Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian.
“This team has shown it’s got the ability to allow us to push a lot of these chips into the middle of the table and recognize 2017 has a chance to be special,” said Cashman, whose team is a half- game ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East. “But we have to wait and see how that plays out.”
Mateo, an international signing in 2012, and Fowler, an 18th- round draft pick in 2013, are 22-year-old outfielders. Mateo, a shortstop whose quick grasp of centerfield has impressed opposing team talent evaluators, had been dominant for 30 games at Double-A Trenton.
Kaprielian, a righthander, was the Yankees’ No. 1 pick (16th overall) in the 2015 draft. He and Fowler are out for the season with injuries. Fowler ruptured his right patellar tendon when he ran into a wall in his major-league debut June 29 and Kap rielian, who entered spring training as the club’s top pitching prospect, had Tommy John surgery April 18.
“A lot of risk for Oakland,” one opposing team executive said. “But if those guys were all healthy, I would put Kaprielian among the top four prospects in their system. And Mateo has as good tools as anyone. It makes sense for both sides.”
Said Cashman: “Billy [Beane] definitely got high-end stuff from us. Stuff that we absolutely loved . . . We’re excited with what we brought in, we’re sorry for what we lost.”
What are the Yankees getting?
What they believe is another sure thing for the rotation, something missing most of this season beyond Luis Severino, who has emerged as the ace.
The 27-year-old Gray is a solid No. 3 starter, or even a 2 in some evaluators’ eyes. He is 44-36 with a 3.42 ERA in his five-year career, including 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts this season.
Just as important, Gray is under control through the 2019 season, which is why the price the A’s demanded was so significant.
Gray has experienced trouble against the AL East. He’s 1-2 with a 4.55 ERA in five career starts against the Yankees; 1-2, 5.16 in four starts versus the Red Sox and 1-3, 5.57 in four starts against the Orioles.
He also has had injuries the last two seasons, most notably a right forearm strain that cost him two months in 2016 and a lat strain that sidelined him in April this season.
Still, after Jose Quintana went to the Cubs earlier in the month, Gray was the best of the starters available via trade.
“He has proven in the past to be a 200-inning guy [in 2014 and 2015], which not many guys can say they’ve done,” one AL scout said. “Is he an ace? Not for me, but he definitely can pitch at the top of a rotation.”
Ever since the Yankees restocked their farm system at the 2016 trade deadline by dealing Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran, 2018 emerged as the target season for contention. But the Yankees got off to a 38-23 start, a burst that allowed them to survive a recent stretch in which they lost 22 of 32 games. Just as significant, the Red Sox — whom Cashman famously called the “Golden State Warriors” of the sport after they brought in Chris Sale last offseason — never seized control of the division, as had been expected.
“We’re excited that we have a shot,” Cashman said, “and that’s all you can do.”
Joe Girardi didn’t hide his enthusiasm.
“They’ve [ownership and the front office] given us an opportunity to do something special here,” he said. “Now we have to go out and do it.”
Draft: Cubs, 27th round, 2008; A’s, 1st round (18th overall), 2011