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Sonny Gray deal boosts Yankees in 2017, ’18 and ’19, says YES’ Jack Curry

Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray (54) delivers a pitch in the first inning of their baseball game against the Cleveland Indians at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, July 14, 2017. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

In 27-year-old Sonny Gray, the Yankees will find their newly acquired right-hander capable of success, but also vulnerable to mood swings and injury. However, every drop of the juice was worth the squeeze on trade deadline day, according to YES Network analyst Jack Curry.

“We all knew it was trending in this direction,” Curry told ESPN’s The Michael Kay Show on Monday afternoon. “[Athletics executive] Billy Beane and [Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman were probably tired of talking to each other and texting each other, and the Yankees had been the favorite probably for the last 72 hours or so. Not only does it help the Yankees for 2017, this helps them for 2018 and 2019. This was a team in spring training that you could argue did not have one starter locked and loaded for 2018. Now you can conceivably say [Luis] Severino, Gray, [Jordan] Montgomery and even [Masahiro] Tanaka — beacause I don’t think he will opt-out —  are all part of your rotation for 2018.

“So Cashman and his front office helped the team now. They look to try and make a run for the postseason and win the division now and they helped themselves in the future.”

In return for Gray, the Oakland Athletics garnered a three-headed package of Yankees’ prospects, which included pitcher James Kaprielian, outfielder Dustin Fowler and infielder Jorge Mateo. Although these players opened the season ranked high on New York’s Top-30 prospects list (per MLBPipeline), 2017 hasn’t been a year to remember for both Kaprielian and Fowler. In early April, the 23-year-old righty underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery, and in Fowler’s Major League debut on June 29 in Chicago, the 22-year-old suffered a gruesome right knee injury, which has cost him the remainder of the year.

The only piece that will continue to produce in the meantime is Mateo, who’s excelled since being promoted to Double-A roughly one month ago. But Mateo’s departure from the Yankees was inevitable, as he was and would’ve remained blocked down in the Minors due to infield fixtures Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, and touted prospect Gleyber Torres, who’s expected to make the Major League roster next season. 

“They got back some quality,” Curry said of the Athletics’ return. “Mateo is a guy, when you talk to scouts about grading out his game and they use a scale of 20 to 80, it’s very rare to see a guy get ranked 80 in anything. Mateo is ranked 80 for his speed, he’s taken to the position switch the Yankees gave him, moving him from shortstop to center field. I’m sure that Billy Beane is telling his bosses Mateo can be a cornerstone player for us for 10 years. I’m sure they see Kaprielian as a front-end of the rotation guy down the line as the Yankees did, and they probably see Fowler as a guy who’s an everyday major league outfielder.

“Did he have a gun to his head to make this deal? I don’t think so. But I think the fact that Gray was pitching so well right now, he wanted to pounce.”

Over the last week and a half, multiple reports noted that Oakland scouts had their eyes set on Single-A outfield prospect Estevan Florial, but in the end, Cashman refused to move the 19-year-old. Although Florial is one of the higher-ranked farmhands, perhaps New York was reluctant to move him after yielding touted outfielder Blake Rutherford to the Chicago White Sox two weeks ago. 

“We’re all speculating here. Even the scouts who watched these guys 100 straight days, some of them make it and some of them don’t,” Curry said. “And that’s why I’ve never been a big fan of prospect hoarding. I think you go and get those prospects, and if you’re the Yankees, you make the kind of deals you did here. If these guys are down your prospect list a little bit and you can try and win this year, in a year where you weren’t expecting this to happen, I think you make the move. 

So, with the addition of Gray — and also veteran southpaw Jaime Garcia — have the Yankees now bolstered themselves as legitimate playoff contenders? Curry believes so.

“Can the Yankees win the American League East? Absolutely. When they get in to the postseason, do they look like a very tough out right now with a Severino, Gray, Tanaka 1-2-3 and the bullpen that they’ve assembled? Absolutely. I don’t see any reason why the Yankees shouldn’t be thinking that way. I think they’ve made themselves better in these last two weeks with the moves they’ve made.

“I think the best thing a team can do is evaluate its own prospects and then make some tough decisions. Again, you can’t hoard those prospects. Use those prospects to make your 25-man roster better.”

The entire interview with Curry can be reached here.

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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