The Runner Sports

Yankees Acquire Sonny Gray: Brian Cashman Has Won The Trade Deadline

An hour before the trade deadline, the New York Yankees acquired starting pitcher Sonny Gray from the Oakland A’s. In exchange for Sonny Gray (and $1.5 million in international bonus pool money), the Yankees part with infield prospect Jorge Mateo, pitching prospect James Kaprielian, and outfield prospect Dustin Fowler. Unless Zach Britton is moved, this deal is the biggest deal on the day of the trade deadline. After weeks of a staring contest between Brian Cashman and Billy Beane, both teams were able to come to an agreement. The Yankees receive a starter who is young and controllable for the next two years. Despite early rumors that first baseman Yonder Alonso would be packaged in this deal, that was not the case on trade deadline Monday.

Brian Cashman needs a standing ovation for his performance this month. As someone who has been harsh of the Yankees’ GM (see Jacoby Ellsbury contract), I have nothing but respect for what Cashman has done this year. A year after the Yankees sold off everybody to bolster their minor league organization, Cashman is able to pull off three trades without hurting the farm system too much. Were there potential future All-Stars that were packaged in these deals? It is almost a certainty. However, none of those prospects traded are in areas of organizational weakness. Blake Rutherford, Mateo, Fowler, and Kaprielian are not the top prospects at their positions within the Yankees’ organization. Bravo to you, Mr. Cashman.

Who Did the Yankees Give Up?

I find it interesting how important prospects have become for fans of their respective teams. The rise of the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros through young players has created more interest in the farm system. When looking at the comments of tweets from reporters or articles about the latest rumors, fans debate about not wanting their team to give up too good of a prospect. For Yankee fans, a deal that involved Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier might have sent them into a frenzy (even for a controllable asset like Sonny Gray). With that said, how should Yankee fans feel about the prospects that Cashman gave up for Gray?

Dustin Fowler

Honestly, I feel bad for Dustin Fowler. In his MLB debut, he crashed into a wall and suffered a season ending knee injury before his first plate appearance. Now, he has been traded from the organization. Ranked as the 77th best prospect in baseball (according to MLB Pipeline) and 4th in the Yankees’ farm system, Fowler could have had an impact on the MLB team had he not experienced this injury. With a serious injury, his stock might have¬†taken a hit in the eyes of Yankees’ management.

With Clint Frazier seeing success at the MLB level (.271/.300/.529 with 4 home runs and 16 RBIs), the outfield position for a minor leaguer in the Yankees’ organization could be a tough one to have. Blake Rutherford was traded away for the same reason. The Yankees did want to hold on to Estevan Florial due to his projection as a center fielder. Fowler, who might have the five tools, was envisioned as a corner outfielder more so. With Aaron Judge and Frazier clogging up those two spots, Fowler might not see a spot in the near future at the MLB level. Plus, a serious injury places a bigger question mark on him than a normal prospect.

Jorge Mateo

Batting .300 in Double-A Trenton, Jorge Mateo might have been the most expendable top prospect in the Yankees’ organization. Once upon a time he was the top infield prospect in the system, Gleyber Torres and Tyler Wade have surpassed him. Graded at the max with speed, Mateo might not even end being a middle infielder at the MLB level. Some scouts predict that he will transition to center field. However, there is already someone (Florial) in the minors who ranks ahead at the center field position.

Mateo is a great prospect. His luck was poor with the Yankees though. In 2016, he was suspended for two weeks for complaining to the front office. That suspension took him out of the Futures Game. Since then, the Yankees acquired Torres and Frazier who both are considered better prospects. After the deal that sent Rutherford to the Chicago White Sox, Mateo seemed to be destined to be part of a trade for a starter. Oakland must see him as their future center fielder, especially since they were unable to acquire Florial.

James Kaprielian

The other injured prospect traded to the A’s, James Kaprielian has only pitched 29 innings since being drafted in 2015 (plus 27 innings in the Arizona Fall League). In mid-April, Kaprielian underwent Tommy John surgery. While the Yankees were high on Kaprielian, he only ranked as their fifth best pitching prospect. With his injuries, he fell behind Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, Domingo Acevedo, and Albert Abreu.

Kaprielian was a former first-round pick for the Yankees. They did not want to deal Kaprielian, but Sheffield and Adams being close to the MLB helped them be comfortable with parting ways with the young right-hander. Kaprielian ranked as the Yankees’ 12th best prospect, making this a deal of all top 15 prospects.

Billy Beane Blinked First

Coming down to the last day of the trade deadline, it was truly a staring contest between Billy Beane and Brian Cashman. Cashman was adamant on keeping Frazier and Torres. Beane was adamant that he would only trade Sonny Gray for the right deal. After the details emerged, it seemed that Beane blinked first. There were numerous reports that Beane wanted Florial more so than Torres and Frazier. The Yankees were able to hold on to him, as well as Frazier, Torres, Adams, and Sheffield. That is not to say that the A’s were burned by this deal. But it is clear, the Yankees won the trade.

Mateo and Fowler will be good-to-great players in the MLB. Mateo will probably lead the league in stolen bases numerous seasons while Fowler should bounce back from his injury. Kaprielian’s injury history makes me question if he will have MLB success, but his potential is a top of the rotation starter. However, Cashman did not give up any of the cherished prospects for a starting pitcher who will help the Yankees for the next three seasons. Beane is no fool and he did not get the wool pulled over his eyes, but Cashman got the better of him.

Acquiring Sonny Gray was Important

Sonny Gray has a 1.7 WAR, 3.43 ERA (1.65 in his last six starts), and 3.13 SO/BB ratio. Other than his 2016 season (which was injury plagued), Gray has been a strong starting pitcher. Finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting in 2015, Gray has a career ERA of 3.42 and WHIP of 1.200. If he can keep the injuries behind him, Gray will be the perfect number two in the Yankees’ rotation.

The importance of this deal is more than the 2017 season. At season’s end, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and C.C. Sabathia could all be free agents and gone. While Tanaka can opt out of his current contract, I would be surprised if he did after this bad season. However, Gray now fills in one of two openings in the rotation at season’s end. Even if Tanaka leaves, a rotation headed by Luis Severino and Sonny Gray is a formidable foundation. Add in Jordan Montgomery, who is looking good this season despite a lack of faith from manager Joe Girardi, and that will be a good top of the rotation. If Sheffield and/or Adams are ready for the MLB, the Yankees have a young and tough rotation for the next two seasons.

After Three Trades, What Can the Yankees Do?

After acquiring Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Jaime Garcia, and Sonny Gray, how do the Yankees look for the 2017 season? Honestly, this team can now compete for the World Series. Are they the best team in baseball? No. In the AL? No. However, they might be the best (or second best) equipped for the postseason. With the new additions, the Yankees have the ideal roster for the postseason.

Looking at the 2017 roster, the Yankees have all of the pieces that are helpful for a successful postseason run. They have three starters who can pitch deep into games, one of the deepest bullpens with five plus relievers, a great offense (ranks top 5 in runs and home runs), and postseason veterans (Sabathia, Gardner, Holliday, and Garcia). Add in a manager who has won a World Series, the Yankees will be formidable in the postseason. The AL East title will be important to this though. The Wild Card Game is not something the Yankees want to wind up in. While I do not think the Yankees will make the World Series, they can be considered contenders now. If not, the core of the team will be there next year (and the next year).

Griffin Fuller
Follow me

Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
Registered Member of MLB Pressbox
Griffin Fuller
Follow me