I know I know, but hear me out. There’s plenty of reason why the Yankees should and probably will trade Sonny Gray this offseason, but based on the way the pitching staff currently stands, ditching him would be a mistake. If Cashman manages to haul back some top line prospects? Sure make the trade. But if it’s mid-tier, and it probably will be at best, Cashman shouldn’t pull the trigger.
While the current rotation looks pretty decent on paper, the reality is that there’s a low floor, mostly due to injuries, for this group. You know what the innings totals were for the current starting five last season? 191.1, 160.1, 156, 177.2, and 153. Not one of them eclipsed 200 innings. And that was without any really major injuries. J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia are both old timers, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton have injury histories, and Luis Severino is still trying to establish what pitcher he is exactly.
The Yankees need insurance, and frankly Sonny Gray is the best insurance they have. There aren’t many good alternatives. Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Loaisiga, while potential candidates to help this team down the road, are both coming off injuries. You know who’s next in line? Domingo German. Yikes. After that? Luis Cessa. Double yikes. Remember that the Yankees just traded their no. 1 pitching prospect in Justus Sheffield. Their other top pitcher prospect, Chance Adams, has struggled for over a year now.
“But there’s no room for Gray on this team right now!” Sure there is. Maybe not in the rotation to start the season, but certainly in the bullpen. This team doesn’t currently have a great swingman, and Gray can absolutely be that guy. He can start the season in the bullpen and join the rotation when potential injury strikes. Or Aaron Boone can get extra fancy and line him up for the occasional spot start on the road, where he pitched to a 3.17 ERA last season. Plus, while a small sample size, Gray did pitch to a 2.60 ERA across 17.1 innings in the bullpen last season.
Look, the Yankees could even try and trade him during the season with the risk his implosion continues. But there’s not a lot of reason to suggest it will. The current perspective of Sonny Gray among Yankees fans is skewed. In 2017, Gray was good with the Yankees. He pitched to a 3.72 ERA. That’s basically the same ERA just pitched by the lefty they traded their no. 1 prospect for in Paxton. As mentioned previously, Gray pitched well on the road last year. It was really just his home starts, inflated in importance in the eyes of Yankees fans since they live through that misery in person, where he pitched poorly. Maybe it was a fluke. Other teams seem to think so if rumors about current interest in him indicate anything.
So unless the haul is magnificent, or another starter is signed, it doesn’t make sense for Cashman to trade Gray at this point. It’s not what fans want to hear. It’s won’t be a popular decision. But at the end of the day, it’s probably the right one.