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Sonny Gray: Potential Trade Target?

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As I wrote the title to this article, I imagined the entire fan base groaning at once. But, I think there is some validity to the idea, and we’ll deep dive into why.

First off, let’s take a look at who Sonny Gray is.

Drafted in the 2011 Draft with the 18th overall pick, Sonny makes the most of his 5’10 frame. Just 2 years after being drafted, Sonny broke out with the A’s to the tune of a 5-3 record sporting a 2.67 ERA, which was supported by his 2.70 FIP in 64 IP. It felt like immediately, Gray gained recognition as an Ace.

From 2013-2015, the ace moniker was deserved. He compiled the following stats:

Baseball Reference

But then 2016 happened, in an injury riddled season, Gray had extremely disappointing results, ending in a 5.69 ERA. His ERA was a full run over the advanced stats (4.67 FIP / 4.13 xFIP). Suddenly there was questions about if Gray was truly an ace or if he was propped up by playing on a struggling team.

The 2017 season, in some ways, could be argued as a great bounce back season. His 3.55 ERA was not in the same conversation of his previous success, but still ranked him 21st best in the MLB for Starting Pitchers, while pitching a solid 162 IP.

But there’s more to the eye than that. 2017 was the tale of 2 seasons:

2017 w/ A’s: 6-5 - 3.43 ERA, supported by a 3.25 FIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a WHIP of 1.175

2017 w/ Yanks: 4-7 - 3.72 ERA, supported by a 4.87 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and WHIP of 1.255

I think everyone would agree, that Gray was significantly worse on the Yankees than he was on the A’s.

2018 continued the slide from Ace to questioning if he should be in the rotation. His stats in 2018 were:

11-9, 4.90 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 8.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9

You can stop and look at this 2 ways. 1.) Gray is washed up, stick a fork in him. 2.) The Yankees Pitching coach is NOT Strom and had a negative effect on Gray.

I was leaning towards theory 2, and was doing some research when I found that Fangraph’s did an article on exactly this topic:

The Yankees No Fastball Approach May Be Breaking Sonny Gray

”The problem is that Sonny Gray might need that fastball and sinker to be successful. Gray may have a great curveball and, at times, a wicked slider. But Gray might also be a pitcher who can’t be remade in a certain image. Gray was good because he was greater than the sum of his parts. Now the Yankees appear to be finding out what happens when you take some of those parts away. If Gray is going to rebound, he might need the Yankees to stop tinkering and let him be himself.”

Obviously, this is just a theory, and Fangraphs looked at this at a pretty high level, so I wanted to look at some detail on his pitches to see if he has lost something compared to 2015, which was his best year:

Fastball -

2015 - 92.9 MPH (60.5%) / 2,362 RPM

2018 - 93.3 MPH (35.1%) / 2,448 RPM

Slider -

2015 - 86 MPH (15.9%) / 2,187 RPM

2018 - 84.9 MPH (17%) / 2,454 RPM

Curve -

2015 - 81.3 MPH (14%) / 2,602 RPM

2018 - 82 MPH (22.8%) / 2,852 RPM

Nothing comes off as alarming when looking at his pitch speeds and his RPM, but of course those are not the only relevant components.

Luck

The ever present but hard to measure / prove factor. Gray sported a .326 BABIP, the average for the league in 2018 was .293, so there were some indications of poor luck / defensive backing.

Looking a little deeper, let’s compare his actual BA / OBP / SLUG and wOBA to what would be expected based on the batted ball profile (speed hit, launch angle, etc).

ACTUAL - .267 / .349 / .419 with a .336 WOBA

Expected - .247/ .329 / .380 with a .317 xWOBA

While I would not say that it is the only factor, I do believe that Gray has a strong potential to regress back towards his career numbers based on these numbers.

Age / Contract

As of the 7th, Gray is 29 years old. He is currently earning 6,500,000 and despite having a poor year will surely be due an increase in arbitration. He does not alleviate long term needs in the rotation but is a cost controlled option.

Trade Value

The Yankees have made it clear that they would be looking to trade Gray, and one would have to imagine with both the reduction of club control and the disastrous last year, that Gray’s value has to have declined significantly. With that said, let’s look at what he was traded for a year and a half ago.

1.) James Kaprielian (best prospect) - Tommy John Surgery

2.) Jorge Mateo (NYY - 8th best prospect)

3.) Dustin Fowler (4th best prospect) - Open Rupture Right Patella Tendon

So let me know your thoughts. Vote and tell me if you would be interested in trading for him or not, and comment and either explain why you would/wouldn’t and who you would trade for him if so.

Poll

Would you trade for Gray?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Yes
    (318 votes)
  • 27%
    No
    (122 votes)
440 votes total Vote Now