Yankees general manager Brian Cashman met with reporters today and expressed a desire to re-sign lefty CC Sabathia while also adding that “a lot” of teams have reached out to express trade interest in Sonny Gray (Twitter links via USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand).
Despite the fact that Cashman has all but admitted he expects to trade Gray, rotation stability will be an area of focus for the Yankees’ front office this winter. With Sabathia and J.A. Happ hitting the open market, Jordan Montgomery out early in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and Gray likely to be moved, the only experienced arms slotted into New York’s 2019 rotation are Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. There’s plenty of internal depth in the form of Justus Sheffield, Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga and Chance Adams, among others, but a team with division title aspirations and the Yankees’ payroll capacity is likely to bolster that group in notable fashion.
[Related: New York Yankees depth chart]
The 38-year-old Sabathia, presumably, wouldn’t be viewed as more than a back-of-the-rotation option. However, he’s been an integral part of the team for the past decade and, despite his age and ongoing knee issues, he enjoyed a very solid 2018 season. In 153 innings (29 starts), the veteran Sabathia worked to a 3.65 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.12 HR/9 and a 44.4 percent ground-ball rate. His swinging-strike and chase rates were the best they’d been since 2012, and his fastball velocity still checked in a bit north of 90 mph — roughly in line with his past four seasons.
Sabathia has already indicated that he hopes to continue pitching in 2019, though his recent success and what figures to be a relatively reasonable price tag could lead to interest elsewhere. While Sabathia is surely open to a reunion with the Yankees, he suggested back in September that he planned to continue pitching even if it meant signing elsewhere (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Marc Carig). The Vallejo, Calif. native did draw interest from the Angels last winter, and speculatively speaking, he’d have plenty of options on the West Coast if he wished to play closer to home.
As for Gray, the right-hander was shelled more often than not when pitching at Yankee Stadium in 2018 but thrived on the road, so it’s not surprising to see numerous clubs expressing interest. Gray’s fastball velocity held strong in 2018, and his swinging-strike rate (10.1 percent) was right in line with that of a league-average starter. Gray’s ground-ball, strikeout and home-run rates were all sharp, as well. The Yankees seemingly altered his pitch selection without much success in ’18, as he threw fewer four-seamers and more curves and two-seamers than ever before.
It’s easy to see why several clubs in larger parks would carry interest — especially if they believe that a return to a more traditional pitch mix for Gray would help him inch toward his peak form. He’s something of a pricey roll of the dice, depending on the interested party, as MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Gray to earn $9.1MM in 2019 — his final season of arbitration eligibility. But Gray’s track record, home/road splits and some solid peripheral metrics place him among the game’s more intriguing buy-low pieces this offseason.