Brian Cashman all but guaranteed in November that Sonny Gray would not be back with the Yankees in 2019, indicating in some blunt remarks that he had concluded that the righthander would never cut it in New York.
Cashman finally made good on that promise over the weekend, reaching a deal with the Reds that sent Gray to Cincinnati in exchange for second-base prospect Shed Long and a compensatory draft pick. The Yankees then flipped Long to the Mariners on Monday afternoon for minor-league outfielder Josh Stowers, who finished 2018 with short-season Everett of the Northwest League. Stowers, 21, was a second-round pick of the Mariners last year.
The Reds also received lefthander Reiver Sanmartin, who finished 2018 with the Yankees’ Class A Tampa team.
The trade was agreed to several days ago but was contingent on the Reds being able to reach an extension with Gray, 29, who had one year left on his contract. According to MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal, the extension, agreed to Monday, is for three years and $30.5 million with a club option in 2023 for $12 million.
Even if Gray had not agreed to an extension, scuttling the trade and forcing Cashman to pivot, it’s safe to say he would have been moved eventually.
Cashman made that clear during November’s general managers’ meetings in Carlsbad, California, when he talked about Gray’s issues in pinstripes since his acquisition from the A’s for outfielder Dustin Fowler, infielder Jorge Mateo and righthander James Kaprielian before the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline.
He made those comments before it became official that CC Sabathia had re-signed and well before free agent J.A. Happ returned. Currently, the Yankees’ rotation is Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Happ and Sabathia.
“He’s got a good makeup. I just don’t think this [the Yankees] is the right spot for him,” Cashman said. “That’s nothing against Sonny Gray, it’s just you live and learn . . . It’s been a year and a half. I’m not going to be Sisyphus pushing the rock up a hill and having it roll back on top of me. It’s not working.”
Gray was 44-36 with a 3.42 ERA in 4 ½ seasons with the A’s before going 15-16 with a 4.51 ERA in 1 ½ seasons with the Yankees. That included his 11-9, 4.90 mark in 2018, a season in which Gray was yanked from the rotation.
A look inside those numbers, however, provides a clue as to why Cashman fielded so many calls from teams after declaring his intention to trade Gray. He was brutal at Yankee Stadium, going 4-4 with a 6.98 ERA, but good, and sometimes excellent, on the road: 7-5 with a 3.17 ERA.
“I’m not going to be willing to continue to walk through the fire and expect it to be a different result,” Cashman said in November. “So I will reallocate his abilities to some other club for a yet-to-be-determined price tag, and he will be good again. Trust me, I think he’s a heck of a pitcher. He’s a very successful major- leaguer, and it’s just going to happen somewhere else.”
Speaking to The Tennessean last Wednesday night at an awards banquet in his hometown of Nashville, Gray addressed his situation.
“Ultimately, you want to play somewhere where you’re wanted,” Gray told the paper. “If it just so happens for me to go back to New York, then I’m going to continue to do everything I can to win games, not only for the team, but to better myself as a pitcher and go that route and try to continue to perform at a high level.”