2018 Sonny Gray or “Fifty Shades of Grey”?
It’s a lose-lose scenario, but a realistic question to pose on this July day of almost trade deadline.
At last season’s trade deadline, 2015 all-star and multi-year Oakland A’s ace Sonny Gray was finally traded after a while of discussion surrounding 2011’s 18th overall pick.
The former Vanderbilt star ascended quickly to the majors, making a big impression in 2013 and putting together a fantastic 2014 that would merely serve as prelude to a truly awesome 2015.
He finished third in Cy Young voting and over the two seasons of 2014 and 2015, he started 64 games and pitched 427 innings. In them, he recorded a 2.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and struck out nearly as many batters (352) as he allowed hits (353).
One of the hottest commodities on the trade market got a lot cheaper after a disastrous 2016. Nevertheless, two more abritration-controlled seasons from a pitcher about to enter his prime at age 27 was worth looking at.
Nearly a year ago, Gray was traded at last. He went to the New York Yankees for three prospects. Pitcher James Kaprielian, infielder-and-maybe-outfielder Jorge Mateo and (yes-)outfielder Dustin Fowler headed to Oakland in a three-for-one blockbuster.
Fowler had just recently made his debut, and unceremoniously ruptured his patella tendon before he could even groom the dirt in the batters box. Thankfully, that’s behind him.
Ready for the big leagues once he healed, Fowler has indeed come back and is currently platooning in the Oakland outfield. The A’s have been a pleasant surprise this season, 14 games over .500 and third in baseball with 31 road wins.
Fowler is a part of that, if not an integral piece but still a relatively important one. His numbers don’t pop off the page, but he does have six home runs and six steals in 55 games as well as providing consistently athletic defense.
He’s touched up Triple-A Nashville this season (.310 in 30 games) so the A’s are definitely hoping he can produce enough to stay. Boog Powell recently suffered a setback in his rehab assignment, further extending the opportunity for the 23-year old Fowler to make his case.
James Kaprielian is probably the top prospect in this trade. That varies on opinion, of course, and there are some who remain high on the forthcoming Mateo. Fowler has always been a lower ceiling with a higher floor type, leaving Kaprielian to claim the “highest potential” honor.
Selected 16th overall in 2015, the 6 foot 4 righty made an immediate impression as a pro. His velocity surged from his projected low-90s to near-100 numbers. Obviously the next thing to happen was Tommy John surgery.
He experienced shoulder issues during his Tommy John recovery in mid-May and is still out of action. Two months earlier in March, he turned 24. There’s obvious concern as he approaches the forbidden minor league age of 25 and has under 30 MiLB innings to his name, but he will eventually (presumably fully) heal and we’re all excited to see him get back on the mound and work his way through the Oakland farm system.
Jorge Mateo, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, has been a sexy prospect since the day he was inked. Few prospects ever have boasted a better speed tool than the lightning-fast Mateo.
His first four pro seasons were full of promise —he stole a majestic 82 bases across Low- and High-A in 2015— but he was having trouble with the glove and wheels aren’t everything in the end.
When Gleyber Torres arrived in 2016, Mateo was pushed to the outfield. The hype in New York passed him by as newer, younger infielders entered the Yankees organization.
He still played some short and second, now adding center to the mix a la Billy Hamilton’s minor league path. A trade was tailor-made for the 23-year old, who moved back to shortstop after becoming an Athletic.
He split 60 Double-A games evenly between the Yankees Trenton and Oakland’s Midland affiliate in 2017. For the clubs, he hit .296 with 24 steals. He also hit a career-best 18 home runs for the season after adding his High-A production.
This season, he made the important jump to Triple-A, but has struggled there. A member of the 40-man roster, he can taste the big leagues, especially with his game-changing speed. But he’s struggling with the bat and though he has 17 steals, that’s low for him and he has been caught 10 times. He also has 106 strikeouts in 94 games.
Meanwhile, in the Bronx, Gray was good for the Yankees after the trade, helping solidify a contender’s rotation. He did allow 11 home runs in 11 starts, his career-worst in five-and-a-half a total of 18 long balls. That proved as effective foreshadowing for his first full season (maybe) at Yankee Stadium.
The cavernous terrain of the Oakland Coliseum behind him, Gray has gotten lit up at home this season to the tune of a 7.62 ERA at Yankee Stadium.
Just a year after becoming a Yankee, he might already be on his way out. New York is reportedly kicking the tires on sending Gray away, and Oakland could ironically be a fit. Gray has one more year of arbitration before hitting the open market.
The Yankees are 63-34, so the prospect of a Gray trade comes without the idea of prospects. A contender for sure, flipping Gray for double the arms could be the play.
In Oakland, the A’s actually just set a new mark for attendance this season in all of baseball. Hold the football field against them if you will, but 56,310 watched the A’s win on Saturday.
The American League is tough per usual, but the A’s are certainly in the mix and definitely intend to stay there after the trade for former all-star closer Jeurys Familia.
Their surprise emergence is in no part to the Sonny Gray trade, which is kind of a Goosebumps way to end this article. I apologize for that.
Oakland is holding out hope on the three, still-developing and still-young players they got for their former ace while the Yankees figure out what they want to do with him. Unless Gray sticks around and turns things around, the A’s definitely won the big trade.