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A Sonny forecast for the Yankees?

If you clicked on this blog, then you likely fall into one of two categories. You think the blame for Sonny Gray’s lackluster performance in the Bronx falls entirely on Larry Rothschild, and a second go-around with Matt Blake could be successful. Or you’re still scarred from 2018 and want Gray nowhere near the Yankees. I fall into the latter category, and would really rather not go down the same road again. However, since I’m a fair and unbiased blogger who frankly couldn’t decide on anything else to write about this week, I’ll weigh the pros and cons of a Gray return to the Bronx. Let’s dive in.

The case for Sonny

Since Gray left the Yankees, he’s been extremely effective. Gray posted a 2.87 ERA in 175.1 innings of work with the Reds in 2019. He was named an All-Star, and placed 7th in NL Cy Young voting. In 2020, Gray was once again productive, with a 3.70 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 56 innings.

The main defense of Gray’s struggles in New York was the lack of help he received from Rothschild. Despite never being a fan of Larry, I generally think blaming a player’s performance strictly on coaching is lazy. However, if anyone has a case to place blame on Rothschild, it’s Gray. I’ll never forget when Rothschild attributed Gray’s high home walk rate to “bad luck:”

“That’s the question,” Gray said of the walks. “It was insane. It wasn’t like two or three starts, either, pretty large sample, with that drastic of a split.

Gray said he asked the coaching staff what it thought.

Am I nuts? Do you see a difference? What’s the difference?” Gray said. “They said, no, you’ve just been unlucky. I was like, ‘that’s bulls–t.’” (Athletic)

Could pairing Gray with the analytically-advanced Blake lead to better results?

The case against Sonny

While Rothschild deserves a heavy amount of blame for Gray’s lackluster performance in pinstripes, Sonny isn’t blameless himself. He was here for a year and a half, at a certain point he could’ve figured things out. James Paxton made the move to throw his curveball more in 2019 despite that going against Rothschild’s wishes. He responded with a strong finish to the season. Gray alluded to the fact that he wanted to throw his cutter more, so why didn’t he? Rothschild was a huge reason for Gray’s struggles, but Sonny needs to be held accountable as well.

On top of that, the fans would have absolutely no patience with Gray. One bad start, and the boo birds would be out in full force at Yankee Stadium (whenever fans can return). I know “he can’t perform in New York” is an overused cliche, but it rings true sometimes. There’s a mental aspect of baseball. And there’s no denying there would be massive pressure on Gray considering he wasn’t good in his first stop here. Not to mention, it’ll probably take a decent package to get him. If the Yankees trade significant assets to bring in Gray as their #2 starter, and he fails again, that’s gonna be brutal for everybody involved.

So what happens?

I can’t honestly see Cashman dealing for Gray. There’s too much baggage there, and it would essentially be him admitting his own mistake. On top of that, it would cost the Yankees top prospects for a pitcher who’s far from a slam dunk to succeed. If you believe things could be different this time around with Matt Blake stepping in for Larry Rothschild, I don’t disagree. But at the end of the day, I don’t think it makes enough sense to give it another shot.

What’s your take on Sonny Gray? Which starting pitcher do you want the Yankees to pursue? Comment on this post or tweet me @ncostanzo24.