Monday, July 31, 2017

Yankees make necessary trade to upgrade rotation in Sonny Gray

About an hour before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Yankees acquired Sonny Gray (along with $1.5 million in International Bonus pool money) from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for prospects Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. This move, along with previous acquisitions of David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and Jaime Garcia, are clear indications the team is in "go-for-it" mode and gives them every chance possible to win the World Series now and in upcoming seasons.

When right, Gray, who is under team-control through 2019, is a no-doubt number 2, maybe even a little better, type of starter in a rotation. He strikes guys out, limits walks, and gets ground balls; three keys to success. Gray is also someone you have no problem giving the ball to in a big game; he is a fierce competitor and has shoved in the playoffs before. No doubt there is a bit of a dark, should I say gray, cloud over him, given the past injury problems (lat, forearm) and rough 2016 season (5.69 ERA, 4.67 FIP), but the upside is too great to ignore. The Yankees have a strong, deep farm system and trading three players, albeit good prospects in their own right, that may or may not have had a long-term future (at least in regards to the position players in Fowler and Mateo), is a good call.

To put it mildly, the Yankees, particularly in regards to their pitching staff, are stacked. The rotation options include Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery, Garcia, and now Gray. Pair that with a bullpen of Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Robertson, Kahnle, Chad Green, and Adam Warren, 1-12 the Yankees may just have the best pitching staff in the American League. The staff has the ability to get length out of their starters, as well as shortening the game with their bullpen. It's a deadly combination that I'm sure every team in the AL is fearing come playoff time, should the Yankees take care of business and get there.

As for the playoffs, this move, along with the others, makes the Yankees the favorite to win the AL East. The Red Sox have been reeling of late; they've lost 14 of their last 23 games, David Price is back on the Disabled List, Rick Porcello hasn't come close to 2016 Cy Young form, and the offense is lacking power compared to last season. The Tampa Bay Rays have made some nice moves at the deadline themselves, but I don't think they have the firepower to jump over the Yanks in the standings; we saw a glimpse why last weekend in which the Yanks took three-of-four games. Even the AL West Houston Astros, who are steamrolling through the regular season, have question marks in their rotation. GM Brian Cashman smelled blood in the water and decided to strike.

I think the prospect package Oakland got was a good one, despite some feeling a little underwhelmed at what Oakland got. Fowler and Kaprielian, both out for the rest of the season (Fowler: knee surgery, Kaprielian: Tommy John surgery), have a lot of upside, especially Kaprielian, who has the upside of a top-of-the-rotation caliber arm. Mateo offers plenty of high potential as well, it's just a question of how much he'll hit. He showed some power to right field and right center after being promoted to Double-A Trenton, which had to get Oakland excited; not to mention the 80-grade speed and ability to play shortstop, second base, and center field. Fowler will have to show he can still run well after the knee surgery, but he was a legit center fielder with plus speed and improving power before getting hurt. All throughout talks that got leaked to the media it appeared Oakland wanted a shortstop and center fielder, and they got just that. Kaprielian's stuff is off-the-charts good according to scouts, but we'll have to wait and see how he does coming back from Tommy John. Overall this trade helps Oakland further advance their rebuild. There's risk on both sides of this deal, but also a trade both clubs needed to make.

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