Typically, general managers are tight-lipped about their plans heading into the offseason, so as not to tip their hands or negatively affect the trade value of players they may want to move.
New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman pretty much threw that out the window once his team’s season was over, all but announcing Sonny Gray would be traded this winter after 1.5 rocky seasons in the Bronx. He didn’t even try to hide his disappointment in the pitcher that was one of the most coveted pitchers on the trade market when he was still in Oakland:
“It hasn’t worked out thus far,” Cashman said at a press conference at Yankee Stadium. “I think he’s extremely talented. We’ll enter the winter, unfortunately, open-minded to a relocation. To maximize his abilities, it would be more likely best [for him to be] somewhere else.”
Despite a 4.90 ERA in 30 appearances (only 23 starts, after being pulled from the rotation), there looks to be plenty of interest in Gray as a bounceback candidate. The hope is he could be the next A.J. Burnett, who likewise bombed in the Bronx but excelled once he got out of New York and put up back-to-back years of 3.0 and 4.2 fWAR in Pittsburgh.
Rumors have long connected the Brewers to Gray, going back to when the A’s were fielding trade offers to him. Gray went to Vanderbilt, where former Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson worked as his pitching coach.
Andy Martino of SNY says the Yankees are expected to move Gray soon, and Max Wildstein of Gothan Sports Network says he’s hearing the Brewers are one of a half dozen teams who have called the Yankees to at least express their interest.
What we don’t know is if the Brewers’ interest is from when they still had Johnson on staff, or if they’d still be interested even after he departed. Perhaps not surprisingly, Johnson’s new employer, the Cincinnati Reds, are now among the teams also interested.
While Gray did get stuck with a 4.90 ERA and a bad reputation in New York -- especially after getting caught laughing as he was booed off the mound at Yankee Stadium in August -- the numbers suggest he wasn’t that bad at all, with a 4.17 FIP. He still struck out 8.49 batters per 9 innings, but his problems in 2018 were largely due to walks (he had a career-high 9.8% BB%) and a .326 BABIP. That’s what’s fueling speculation that he could get back to his All-Star form with a bit more defensive luck and some good coaching to fix any mechanical flaws.
Gray likely won’t command the top prospects in a trade he did a year and a half ago, but the number of possible suitors may still mean having to give up a decent prospect or two to finish a deal.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference