Brewers general manager David Stearns has been interested in Sonny Gray for a long time, and that interest hasn’t waned dispite the departure of Gray’s former college pitching coach, according to the latest reports.
Jon Morosi says the Brewers are still a “prominent” part of trade talks for the former All-Star who’s all but guaranteed to be traded out of the Bronx this winter.
Stearns’ interest in Gray goes all the way back to the trade deadline in 2017, when the right-hander was still with Oakland. Stearns refused to give up Lewis Brinson in those initial trade talks, and Gray went to the New York Yankees instead. But after all of that deadline excitement, Gray’s tenure in pinstripes has ended up more like A.J. Burnett than C.C. Sabathia.
Despite increasing his strikeout rates in the Bronx, he’s seen an ERA a full run higher than it was in Oakland (4.51 with the Yankees, 3.42 in 5 years with the A’s). A big part of that is an increase in his home run rate -- 1.1 per 9 innings with the Yankees, as opposed to 0.8 per 9 before -- which is likely to be expected with a move from one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the AL to one of the most hitter-friendly.
Things didn’t get any better when Gray was caught by cameras laughing as the Bronx booed him off the mound this past season. He ended the year getting pulled from the starting rotation and pitching out of the bullpen. While results were better there, Yankees GM Brian Cashman all but announced he was going to have to trade Gray this year, saying it would be “best for everyone involved” if Gray pitched somewhere other than New York.
It seemed like a lot of the Brewers’ continued interest in Gray was rooted in the fact that they were employing his former Vanderbilt pitching coach -- Derek Johnson. Once Johnson took an offer he couldn’t turn down in Cincinnati, that connection followed and it was speculated the Reds were interested. As Morosi notes, that’s likely cooled off after they traded for two other starters this month in Tanner Roark and Alex Wood.
Gray is slated to make about $10 million this year in arbitration, which is another motivating factor for the Yankees to move him -- especially if they hope to clear payroll room to sign someone like Manny Machado. That salary may be tough to fit into the expected Brewers’ budget of $110 million or so, but that may be a better investment than trying to sign a starting pitcher on the free agent market, even if Gray is set to become a free agent at the end of the year.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference