Don’t mortgage the future for Sonny Gray and Yonder Alonso

Let’s start by admitting something. Sonny Gray is good. He’s ace good. The reason for that is he has a strikeout and ground ball-inducing stuff. 2016 was a rough, injury-ridden year for him, and started slow after coming off the DL this year. Now he appears to be back to the Sonny Gray of 2014-2015, when he was one of the most coveted pitchers in the league.

At 5-foot-10, Gray is definitely diminutive compared to his average colleague, but that hasn’t stopped him so far from being an ace caliber pitcher. His average velocity this season is 94.1 mph, which makes him 90th among active starting pitchers. That’s not what makes him effective though. It’s his fastball movement and secondary pitches that make him the pitcher he is.

Given his size, injury history, and inconsistencies, he is not the perfect target on the starting pitcher trade market, but he is the best option currently available. Yu Darvish is the most talented, but he does not come with two additional years of comparative low-cost team control like Gray does. There are some major red flags with Gray though, and serious reasons to worry that the Yankees could end up losing a major prospect haul for a guy who just ends up getting injured. That’s a risk in any trade, but seems to be even more of a risk on a small, recently injured starting pitcher.

On the plus side, Gray fills a major need. The Yankees will more than likely start next year with three rotation pieces. That will be Severino, Montgomery, and Tanaka. After that, it’s all internal options right now. Gray fills that need better than any pitcher on the market, and greatly increases their chances at the playoffs this season. None of the internal options can say that.

Throw Yonder Alonso into the deal, and you have a team that is destined for the playoffs this year, and might even make a run at a world series. The Yankees have a need at first base, and Alonso certainly fills a major void for them. Seemingly out of nowhere, Alonso has become one of the better power hitters in the game. He’s hitting .267/.364/.534/.897 with 21 homeruns and 16 doubles. His contract expires after this season, making him a pure rental for the Yankees. That may actually be a good thing, because Greg Bird can take over again next season when he is fully healthy, and the Yankees will again have a cost effective option at first base. Alonso helps them make a real run at a world series this year though, and that’s a big deal.

So far, I’m not making the best case for my argument, which is to not mortgage the future for two guys who help us now, and in the relatively near future (for the next two seasons).

Here comes the U-turn. The Yankees are very close to becoming a perennial power again. They are one or two starting pitchers, and one or two position players away from that distinction. Those players, in my opinion, are already in the high minors in the Yankees’ farm system. By sending a bunch of the farm guys over to the A’s, we fast forward to a playoff contender this season, but we detract from our ability to become that perennial contender for the next 10 years.

The Yankees have tremendous pitching depth in the minors, although some outlets would have you believe otherwise. Much of that depth is already in the upper minors. Chance Adams is already ready, but is ironing out some minor wrinkles in Triple-A this season. He can already get major league players out, but by next season he might be comparable to Sonny Gray. He has that kind of repertoire.

After Adams, there are several other guys who might be ready to contribute as soon as next season. Caleb Smith actually is currently making his bid to be one of those guys. As a lefty who sits mid-90’s and has solid secondary offerings, he may surprise people going forward. Bryan Mitchell is still there and seems very close to being that guy, as does Domingo German. Dietrich Enns is yet another lefty who has been completely dominant in the minors and appears ready to give it a go in the majors. Then there’s Domingo Acevedo, who throws 103 mph and is dominating Double-A as we speak. He’s probably not ready yet, but he’s getting dangerously close. Justus Sheffield, Yefry Ramirez, and Zach Littell are all also in Double-A and thriving. James Kaprielian will be back early next year and will likely immediately compete for a rotation spot on his return.

With Severino, Montgomery, and Tanaka already in the rotation next season, and all of this upper minors depth, I have a hard time convincing myself they need Gray in the near future; at least they don’t need him badly enough to trade three of their top 10 prospects for him. This is especially true when you consider Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, and Johnny Cueto will all hit the market this offseason. All three could be had at no prospect cost at the end of the season. Gray is younger than those three guys, but I don’t believe he represents a massive upgrade over any of them.

The names being bandied about to trade for Gray are what really has me concerned. Jorge Mateo, Domingo Acevedo, and Estevan Florial with another lower minors high end arm appears to be the A’s asking price. In no way should the Yankees should give the A’s all of that for Sonny Gray. That, in my opinion, would be mortgaging the future and detracting from the possibility of a 10-year perennial power.

If the Yankees wait one more year to make a deal like this, they will have a much better idea where their real needs lie, and they will have a better team that is potentially one move away from a world series. With Jacoby Ellsbury seemingly done, Gardner’s contract up after next season, and Hicks’ in 2019, the Yankees might be in need of a long term centerfielder sooner than they originally thought. Aside from Dustin Fowler, who is currently has an injury that is so serious no one knows what he’ll look like when he’s recovered, the next two legitimate centerfielders in the system are Mateo and Florial. Both are potential stars.

The other positions of need are third base and first base. Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres will look to fill the third base void. The Yankees could go any number of directions for first base, but the hope is that Greg Bird’s surgery finally brings him back to his pre-injury production. I’m not as optimistic as many on that front, but I do think they have a ton of options at that position if Greg Bird doesn’t work out. Worst case scenario they can always take a hired gun like Yonder Alonso at the trade deadline next season when they have a better idea of what their real needs are.

The bullpen, outfield, catcher, and middle infield are otherwise pretty much set for years to come.

There is no question the Yankees should make a play at Sonny Gray. He would benefit their team both now and for the next two seasons. The problem is, their farm system will benefit this team for much longer than two years. Waiting patiently will allow them to have a much better idea of what their needs are in the future and possibly set themselves up for years with the right moves. For the right price, the Yankees should bring Gray in. Mateo, Florial, and Acevedo plus a high end low minors pitcher is not close to the right price though. They should take Florial out of the running and then negotiate from there.

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29 Responses to Don’t mortgage the future for Sonny Gray and Yonder Alonso

  1. mrscarlet says:

    do the trade dont listen to this idiot

    • gcorcoran says:

      Intelligent argument you've concocted there.

    • Jerry says:

      Are you Mr.Scarlet or Mrs Carlet, you probably don't even know. ….. And I say no trade, not with the names I'm hearing bandied about. … Sign Darvish as a free agent and keep whatever you can. I'm not sure about the rule five draft, the Yankees have to figure that out and trade from the excess. I know we can't keep them all so some pretty good players could be available. They are clearly on the right path. And Greg I really appreciate your contributions.

  2. Jim says:

    The trade would be stupid, too much for Gray who benefits from pitching in Oakland's very pitcher friendly park. We have enough future starters to not give up too much.

    I don't trust Gray at all, he has always pitched poorly against the Yanks, Red Sox and Blue Jays. He is no ace, I doubt he will be even a 2 for us. Eat some innings as our 3, sure, but why give up the farm for that.

  3. buckeyeballs says:

    Agree with Rob-fast centerfielders are tough to find and sonny gray is good not great. A lot of possible young arms for next year, wish they would just give Cessa or Smith or Mithhell the remaining starts and see who emerges. If Bird can't make it then target Hosmer in Free agency-if Bird miraculously stays healthy next year DH him and trade him for a pitcher next july if we need him

  4. gcorcoran says:

    Now asking price is Clint Frazier or Gleyber Torres. That's gonna be a definite no for me.

  5. Jack says:

    Make the trade . Yanks need pitching and Gray is way above average. Perhaps the Yanks can sit on their collective asses again and let another starter go by just like they did with Sherzer. Price Darcish and oh yeah SALE The Yanks have plenty of prospects and I seem to remember that baseball is made up of 8 position player starters and the rest pitchers and backups. DUH . Championships are won with PITCHING and defense. Wake up or maybe Yankee fans should wait another friggin 10 years for a chanpionship

  6. tom says:

    I honestly don't want to trade both Mateo and Florial for SP with red flags. I am more willingly move Mateo than Florial for two simple reasons. Power and lefty.

    A's like Mateo, Florial and Kaparielian. Ouch! Red Frazier or Torre? triple ouch!

    I don't understand Yankees pondering on acquiring Justin Wilson. Why not Yankees use Mitchell as 5th starter with Smith in the bullpen. Simple.

  7. Steve S. says:

    This is a tough call. I'm with Greg on not mortgaging the future. Sure Gray is good, but not worth all the A's want in return. If they give a lot away for Gray now and they don't win, the same guys screaming for the trade to be made as is rumored now, will be screaming loudest to do another one just like it next year. This thing has been built using a great blueprint. Don't yield to temptation and push the envelope too hard. Next year they will be in a fantastic position. Also, for better or worse, I'm not sure Fowler's name isn't being banded about in spite of his severe injury. Adams is very close. He pitched another gem the other night, only walking 2 in 7 innings. That's been his bugaboo so far. He's gotten better, but his control will never be perfect. He's got a ridiculous hits allowed to innings ratio. I would show some guts and bring him up now and put him right into the rotation.

  8. Steve S. says:

    I just read Joel Sherman's latest and he he brought up Freicer Perez as a possible talking point. The same Freicer Perez who is becoming breakout dominant this year. He was super dominant again last night. He already throws hard and he's a young beanpole who will fill out and throw even harder at 6'8". If these ludicrous requests continue, Cashman should just walk away and look elsewhere.

    • tom says:

      Perez successfully repeats his mechanic but his lacking of secondary pitches benefits that. Too early to think he is a stud of future. If A's are ready to settle down with prospects that won't be ready for other 2 or 3 years then Yankees need to take the trade. I would be pissed off if Cashman held Acevedo and sent Perez instead, though.

      • gcorcoran says:

        Perez is great, but I too would be willing to part with him, if only because he has so many starting pitchers ahead of him and behind him. He's definitely becoming a top 100 type pitcher, but I actually prefer Acevedo to him. At the end of the day, I'd part with either one to get Gray, a proven major league starter.

  9. tom says:

    While I like Lance Lynn, I don't think Yankees should rely on him for 5th job. Lynn is just one year removed from TJS and is closer to a common plateau. I can see this ruthless Yankees have no qualms to give him a crash course and label him as an emergency starter during playoff season but what Yankees really need to have is SP who can push Tanaka or Sabathia for playoff spot/role. Surely, Yankees can roll all the way if Severino, Monty and either Sabathia or Tanaka are on fire but what guarantee?

    That reduces to Verlander and Gray. Verlander is expensive as well as the price to obtain Gray. ugh!

    Is that why Yankees are thinking about acquiring Justin Wilson the FREAKING reliever?

    • tom says:

      I am sorry I forget about Darvish. He has been coveted by 3 superior teams. Dang!

    • gcorcoran says:

      Tough call on Lance Lynn. He probably does help the team this year. That said, is he going to be the difference between playoffs and no playoffs? I don't believe so. And how does he benefit the team long term. I'm not sure he does.

  10. Steve S. says:

    Brian Keller was brilliant tonight. They let him go 9. Had to be by far the best game of his professional career. Only gave up 2 hits ( both in the 2nd inning). Walked only 1 (in the 7th). Other than that no base runners. Struck out 9. The only downside is that unless Tampa scores in the bottom of the ninth, it will be a no decision. He threw around 110 pitches. I was actually surprised the let him come out for the 9th. Last start he ran out of gas in the low 90's. Lots of progress here. Greg, you nailed it about him being ready to break out. Hey, Tampa just scored that run! He got a much deserved win.

    • gcorcoran says:

      Thanks for noticing Steve! I am a big fan of Keller and think he could move really fast going forward.

      • tom says:

        So with my former heartthrob, Littell, gone, do you think Keller will promote to AA? He already reaches his standard IP plateau so he should be ready 3 or 4 games of hard innings before he is shut down.

        • Steve S. says:

          I'm thinking the same thing. I noticed that Tampa hasn't listed a starter for Wednesday which would be his turn.

          • gcorcoran says:

            I doubt it. He just got to High-A and he's not getting to the majors this season. There's nothing to be gained by promoting him now. Let him finish strong and gain confidence. Then unleash him on Double-A next season and see what happens.

  11. Balt Yank says:

    Excellent article. I think Chance Adams should have a chance now, because Caleb Smith (if he is a legitimate prospect) needs ripening below. If not a chance on Chance, I am not sure why Bryan Mitchell isn't our Fifth Starter?

    • gcorcoran says:

      I think Smith will end up in the bullpen, for the record. I could see him sitting 97 mph there and having his secondary pitches play up. Chance Adams will be the fifth starter next season. Then you'll have Acevedo, Sheffield, maybe Smith, Mitchell, and others as depth. Didn't need Kaprielian for that rotation.

  12. tom says:

    Zack Littell is scratched from tonight's game? Bastard!

    • Steve S. says:

      It looks like the trade is getting close. Littell would be a sacrifice no doubt, but they have to give to get. At least the system is very deep in pitching. It's a pity though because Littell really emerged this year. It will be worth it if Gray can stay healthy. If not, it will be a disaster.

  13. tom says:

    I overvalue Littell,eh?

    Let's see if Girardi actually lets Garcia pitch thru 6 innings regardless of what runs allowed. I believe it will happen simply because he is a strong ground inducing machine.

    So with Enns gone, Chaz Hebert may have a shot to be added to the reserve roster this off season. umm!

    • gcorcoran says:

      I'd be surprised if Hebert was placed on the 40 man. He's recovering from injury and never had big stuff. I love him as a player though.

      • tom says:

        Sorry wrong southpaw. I mean Nestor Cortes. Same difference I suppose, eh?

        • gcorcoran says:

          Same kind of deal. I never see the Yankees prioritizing him as a major league option. He's a guy I think they will give a shot if injuries happen and there's no one else ahead of him. As of next year there's at least 5, probably six or seven ahead of him unless he has a major uptick in stuff.

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