Brian Cashman, so the saying goes, is a ninja. The reputation is deserved: Yankee moves often materialize quickly and (from our perspective) out of nowhere. The organization as a whole rarely tips its hand with regard to its plans – an impressive feat considering the hyper-intense media environment in which it operates. That is why Cashman’s statements on Sonny Gray, which make it abundantly clear that the Yankees will trade him, have been so surprising.
Cashman’s candor began in earnest last August when he told Michael Kay that “if he winds up somewhere else pitching, he’s going to be pitching extremely well because the equipment is all there, the stuff is there, (but) consistently it’s not playing out right here.” Considering the fact that the Yankees were in the midst of a playoff push, this is about as honest as Cashman could be at the time without outright giving up on a member of the team.
This trend has continued since the end of the season. On October 12, just three days after the Yankees premature postseason exit, Cashman used his annual end-of-the-year press conference to once again make it clear that Gray is persona non grata. “To maximize his abilities,” Cashman said, “it would be more likely best [for him to be] somewhere else.”
As if that wasn’t straightforward enough, Cashman slammed Gray once again last week at the GM Meetings in Minneapolis. The Yankee GM told New York Post reporter Joel Sherman that the team is “going to move him if we get the right deal because I don’t think it is going to work out in the Bronx.”
Cashman’s uncharacteristic candor over Gray is certainly surprising, but there is another element of his statements worth exploring: the seeming belief that Sonny simply can’t make it work with the Yankees. Cashman made it a point in each of the above statements to emphasize that fact.
This suggests that the Yankees believe there is something to the statistics that show Sonny seemingly cannot pitch in Yankee Stadium beyond simple sample size noise. His home/away splits are downright remarkable, as Dominic mentioned in his excellent review of Gray’s season a few weeks ago. Gray pitched to a 3.17 ERA on the road and a 6.98 ERA at home – and those trends were present in 2017 too.
This also suggests that Cashman is right when he expresses confidence that the team will find a compatible suitor for Sonny this offseason. If the Yankees believe that there is something about the organization and Sonny that isn’t compatible, other teams very well may as well. And if that’s the case, teams will see a pitcher with a proven track record of success – including in big postseason matchups – who, for whatever reason, couldn’t make it work with the Yankees. His age, track record as a starting pitcher and success away from Yankee Stadium create a buy-low package that many teams won’t pass up.
Think about it. If Sonny Gray had been a Cleveland Indian this year and had an identical season, many of us would want the Yankees to go after him. Furthermore, Cashman wouldn’t be so blunt about his intentions if he didn’t know there were interested teams out there.
Because the bulk of our familiarity with Sonny comes during his Yankee tenure, it can be easy to forget the track record that made so many of us excited when the team traded for him in 2017. That underlying record hasn’t changed, even if his value is obviously lower than it was then.
This is not to say that the Yankees will receive a huge haul for Sonny as it is to say that it will not be as meager as we might think. I can’t predict what a trade will look like – and even if I did, it would suck – but I do not think the Yankees are in a position where they will just dump Gray for scraps. He still has considerable upside, and some team will take a chance on him. And if Brian Cashman is to be believed, he’ll probably realize that upside– just not in pinstripes.