Padres & Yankees Should Definitely Have Discussions About Sonny Gray
If the New York Yankees indeed want to deal right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray, then the San Diego Padres should be in discussions with the team. The Padres could use the potential in Gray, who has clearly worn out his welcome in the Big Apple.
Yankees’ G.M. Brian Cashman has made it clear that Sonny Gray is on the trade block in the upcoming winter.
Gray’s struggles in the season forced him to the bullpen and he wasn’t carried at all on New York’s postseason roster. After having a sterling career in Oakland, Gray was sent to the Yankees in a high-profile trade that involved two of the Yankee’s better prospects.
However, Gray hasn’t panned out in pinstripes and the New York fans and media have let him know how they feel about his struggles. The high-profile media of New York can be a thorn in the side of many players, and has caused the downfall of many a career. A change of scenery might just be what the doctor ordered regarding Gray’s career.
Enter the San Diego Padres. Just south of Oakland, San Diego has been a destination for pitchers in need of a pick-me-up, and the Padres are in need of an arm to lead their rotation. Both the Yankees and the Padres fit each other’s needs, and Cashman should be giving A.J. Preller a phone call to discuss a swap of pieces.
First, why should the Padres be interested in a pitcher like Gray? It is true that he had his struggles, posting a 4.90 ERA with a 1.50 WHIP, while a FIP of 4.17 and a 4.10 xFIP doesn’t exactly paint a prettier picture. He also generated a career-high 3.94 BB/9, and opponents were hitting .265 off of him.
There is a silver lining to Gray, however. Away from Yankee Stadium, Gray collected a 3.17 ERA and yielded just three homers in 71 innings of work, while he pitched to a 6.98 ERA and allowed 11 home runs in 59 1/3 innings when he was at home, showing that he was a better pitcher away from Yankee Stadium. His HR/9 rating, while still very high, was his lowest since 2016 at 0.97 and he was still collecting strikeouts at a solid clip with an 8.49 K/9.
Gray may have also suffered from a case of bad luck with a .326 BABIP. His BABIP may be fueled due to a career-high hard contact rate of 35.5%, while his medium contact rate dropped from 55.3% in 2017 to 45.4% in 2018. All of these hard hits usually drop in the field for a base hit, whereas a soft hit ball usually finds a fielder for an out. So, the more hard contact a pitcher allows, the higher the BABIP is.
What didn’t help Gray’s BABIP is the Yankees’ questionable defense, which consistently ranked in the mid-to-bottom tier of the Majors, according to Fangraphs. That’s not good for a pitcher like Gray, who induced ground balls at a 50% clip. The Yankees were ranked at 18th regarding Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) and 14th in DRS (a decent number, but keep in mind the Padres ranked seventh with 48 DRS compared to the Yankees 26 DRS). Gray’s ERA may have been inflated because the Yankees’ defense just couldn’t make the plays they were supposed to or some balls dropped in for hits that shouldn’t have dropped in at all.
Gray would also benefit from having Darren Balsley as his pitching coach. Balsley is well-known for helping struggling pitchers find new life by implementing a tweak in mechanics or adding a new pitch. Tyson Ross saw his career blossom as a result of Balsley’s tutelage, while former Padre Jhoulys Chacin now pitches for the Milwaukee Brewers (who are currently in the playoffs as of this writing) after a quick stop with San Diego, not to mention the dozens of players who sing praises about Balsley. It stands to reason that Gray’s career would see a boost in efficiency under the watchful eyes of Balsley.
For the Padres, they can take advantage of the 13 players who need to be protected on the 40-man roster in terms of crafting a trade package for Gray. While the Padres may not be interested in trading a Chris Paddack or an Anderson Espinoza, they could afford to trade one of their younger pitchers currently on the 40-man roster, like Brett Kennedy or Robbie Erlin, who will attract trade interest after an impressive showing following Tommy John surgery.
The Yankees also have many players who are set to be free agents, including bullpen pieces like Zach Britton and David Robertson, along with veteran pieces like Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, and Brett Gardner. New York would be interested in some of the younger (and cheaper) players the Padres have to replace those players.
Cory Spangenberg provided similar, if not slightly better, numbers than Walker while serving as a useful utility infielder, and unlike the free agent Walker, Spangenberg is still eligible for arbitration and won’t be a free agent until 2020. Michael Gettys and Edward Olivares, two players who must be protected on the 40-man roster, are two outfielders who have the potential to carve out a role similar to Gardner. Or if the Yankees want a major league player, Travis Jankowski is also arbitration-eligible and can serve as an excellent center fielder and a speedy leadoff hitter (albeit with less power than Gardner). If the Yankees need a bullpen piece, they may be interested in a reunion with Kirby Yates, who won’t be a free agent until 2021 and excelled as the closer after a July trade of All-Star Brad Hand.
The Yankees, if they want to resign players like McCutchen, Gardner, and Walker, will have to spend quite a bit of money to retain their services. Throw in rotation stalwart CC Sabathia and revelation J.A. Happ, while adding in the contract of Giancarlo Stanton, and the Yankees are going to have a tough time staying under the luxury tax limit. Plus, if they desire to enter the Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado sweepstakes (which they most certainly will), they will have to find ways to save some money to maximize the number of dollars they throw at one (or both) free agents. A trade with San Diego not only solves the problem of replacing the players, but it saves them money that would help towards making a big splash on the free agent market.
Both parties have pieces that fit needs the other team has. Gray is an intriguing buy-low candidate who has the potential to be an ace for the Padres, while the Yankees can find younger and cheaper alternatives to their impending free agents in San Diego. Preller will most likely be calling Cashman in regards to a trade, and it is one that would see both San Diego and New York walking away from the table as happy campers.
I am currently attending San Diego State University while working on achieving a major in journalism. At SDSU, I write for The Daily Aztec while also hosting the sports radio show “Picked Off”, for KCR Radio. A loyal fan of San Diego sports, I hope to bring content that you will enjoy reading.
Do you buy a poorly running used car hoping a mechanic can get it running well again? Better to invest in a good running car that will last a few years. If he was really cheap you might take the gamble, but supposedly 2020 is the year to spend coin on good starters.
It only makes sense if the Padres intend to contend in 2019 and make other moves including adding a top of the rotation starter like Syndergaard on a longer team control and fill 3B with a long term solution.
Otherwise it makes no sense.
San Diego is “just south of Oakland?” Somebody slept through geography class, the San Diego ballpark is about 500 miles south of the Oakland Coliseum.
Please let’s stop thinking of Spangenberg or Jankowski as trade chips. We couldn’t give them away when Seattle needed a 2b or CF. No team will trade a SP, even one who has struggled at home, for an UT or 4th OF. They just don’t. They gave up 3 pretty decent prospects to get Gray, figure it’ll take 2 pretty decent prospects to acquire him now.
As for Yates, the NYY very rarely bring guys back who struggled with them the first time. He was good last year, but before then not so much.
Jankowski is a very valuable trade chip. .260 with plus defense at all 3 OF positions is something every contending team needs. With 2 more years of team control he could be an ancillary part of a trade package for a TOR starter. Not the main piece, but a secondary piece that would lower the prospect cost. Not every team wants just prospects.
Spangenberg is a different subject. He had simply not panned out in San Diego on offense or defense.
I agree Jankowski is a valuable player, but the Padres have shopped him before and found the market quite tepid. Teams just don’t give up much for a 4th OF. Most of them have a simliar player at AAA. If you suggesting that he could be a throw in to a deal, sure. But in that case he probably has more value in SD than in a trade. But who knows, he could actually make some sense in LF and batting leadoff in the Bronx.
Maybe. Or maybe not. I think they should speak to the Diamondbacks about Paul Goldschmidt. They will lose Corbin anyway. He can slide right in that rotation. Call Arizona. Offer Gray, a bench player and some prospects. It’s worth it.