Sonny Gray’s tenure with the Yankees hasn’t panned out nearly as well as the organization had hoped, and general manager Brian Cashman candidly told reporters Friday that he plans to explore trade scenarios this offseason (Twitter link via Newsday’s David Lennon). “We’re entering the winter open-minded to relocation,” Cashman said of Gray. “…It’s probably best to try somewhere else.”
It’s highly atypical to see a baseball executive display that level of candor when discussing a potential trade of a player, but the writing has been on the wall for quite some time now. Gray was dropped from the team’s rotation amid considerable struggles this summer, and the Yankees didn’t carry him on their postseason roster.
Acquired in a high-profile trade that sent Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian to the Athletics in July 2017, Gray gave the Yankees 65 1/3 innings of 3.72 ERA ball down the stretch that season. He was far more homer-prone than he’d been in Oakland — perhaps to be expected given the radical shift in his home park — but the 2018 season was an ugly one for Gray. In 130 1/3 innings this season, he posted a 4.90 ERA with a career-worst 3.94 BB/9 mark and a career-high eight hit batters.
To his credit, Gray notched an 8.49 K/9 mark, maintained the velocity on his fastball (93.3 mph average), generated a solid 10.1 percent swinging-strike rate and induced grounders at a characteristically strong 50 percent clip. Nearly all of his struggles were confined to pitching at Yankee Stadium, where he turned in a ghastly 6.98 ERA and allowed 11 home runs in 59 1/3 innings. When pitching away from the Bronx, Gray logged a strong 3.17 ERA and yielded just three homers in 71 innings of work.
That home/road disparity, paired with Gray’s track record and relative youth — he’ll turn 29 in November — should make him a popular buy-low candidate for teams looking to supplement their rotation. He’s only controlled for one more season and comes with a projected arbitration salary of $9.1MM (courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz). However, Gray entered the 2018 season with a career 3.45 ERA and peripheral stats that largely backed up that mark. The former No. 18 overall draft pick was an All-Star in 2015 and finished third in American League Cy Young voting that season when he tossed 208 innings (his second consecutive 200-inning season) with a 2.73 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. He dealt with shoulder and forearm issues in 2016-17 but has avoided the disabled list in his time with the Yankees.