The Yankees began the offseason with GM Brian Cashman openly stating that the team was going to shop Sonny Gray in trade talks this winter. As Cashman said to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter links) and other reporters today, plans haven’t exactly changed on this front, as the Yankees’ “intention is to move Sonny Gray and relocate him.” However, Cashman isn’t under any rush to move the right-hander, saying that the Yankees will only trade Gray “when we get the proper return, in our estimation. It’ll happen this winter, it’ll happen in the spring or it’ll happen sometime during the season.”
Notably, Cashman cited C.C. Sabathia’s recent angioplasty as a reason for why Gray could still be in the pinstripes come Opening Day. While Sabathia wasn’t expected to face any complications from the procedure and was still expected to be ready to pitch this coming season, Cashman said the situation “has given us pause” about dealing Gray. Given the understandable concern attached to any type of heart surgery, it could be that the team simply wants to make sure that Sabathia is fully healthy before going ahead and shipping off another rotation member.
The Yankees had already worked to fill Gray’s spot in the pitching staff this winter, between acquiring James Paxton in a blockbuster deal with the Mariners and re-signing Sabathia and J.A. Happ. That trio joins Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka in what should be a very solid starting five, and it doesn’t leave any room for Gray unless an injury develops or Sabathia needs more recovery time.
There has been so much interest in Gray this winter that there hasn’t been much exploration about what the Yankees might do if they couldn’t find a trade partner for the right-hander. This is just my speculation, but New York begin the year by making Gray something of a de facto sixth starter, only using him in road starts as a nod to his much-superior numbers outside of Yankee Stadium. With a sixth starter and multiple off-days in April, this scenario allows the Yankees to ease their starters (all veterans, and most with significant injury histories) into the new campaign. Gray could also be used out of the bullpen, though one would think the Yankees would want to keep him stretched out as a starter to appeal more to trade suitors.
Assuming a clean bill of health for Sabathia, it still seems quite likely that Gray begins the season on another roster, even if a trade doesn’t come until February or March. Obviously Cashman isn’t going to deal Gray just for the sake of dumping him, though it could be that the team might have to lower its very high asking price in order to accommodate a deal at some point. Waiting to deal Gray could give teams a chance to address its pitching needs in free agent signings or other trades, though conversely, a team could face a rotation injury in Spring Training injury and suddenly have a greater need for Gray’s services.