The Yankees have finally done it.
After weeks of speculation that the Bombers could land A’s ace Sonny Gray, Brian Cashman finally pulled off the swap, sending a trio of valuable prospects but holding on to his most treasured assets.
But who is Sonny Gray? And just what does he bring to the table now that he’s in the Bronx?
1. Postseason Experience
There’s no doubt the Yankees acquired Gray with the intention of making a bid for a postseason spot, but the expectation is that the Bombers could make a run deep into October should they get there.
Gray instantly adds another battle-tested arm to the Yankees’ rotation, having made a pair of key postseason starts against the Tigers in 2013, squaring off against Justin Verlander in both.
Although he lost a 3-0 Game 5 duel to Verlander, that says nothing of his incredible Game 2 performance, outdueling Verlander with an eight-inning scoreless effort against a lineup that included the likes of 2013 MVP Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez.
2. Injury Concern
Sonny Gray has battled arm injuries over the last year of his career.
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
While every pitcher carries some form of injury risk, Gray isn’t too far removed from an injury-plagued 2016. He made just 22 starts a year ago, spending time on the DL due to a strained trapezius muscle and a forearm strain and pitching to a woeful 5.69 ERA even when he managed to take the mound.
The young right-hander also missed the first month of 2017 with a strained lat, not making his season debut until May 2.
The Yankees may have gotten their man right before the deadline, but now it’s about keeping him on the field.
3. Can he handle big-time lineups?
How will Sonny Gray fare against the league’s best teams, including the rival Red Sox?
Despite his stellar 2013 playoff performance, Gray hasn’t been able to figure out the league’s best lineups this season, an issue should the Yankees find their way into October.
Gray hasn’t found any issue with the league’s worse squads, pitching to a 2.13 ERA in eight starts against sub-.500 teams this season.
But against the tougher competition? Gray has struggled to a 4.86 ERA in his eight starts against winning ballclubs.
Even more concerning, Gray has allowed 15 earned runs in 22.2 innings (5.96 ERA) in his four combined starts against the Red Sox, Indians and Astros, all lineups he would likely face in the playoffs.
Can he turn it up against those teams when it matters most?
4. Innings Eater
Alongside Luis Severino, Sonny Gray will give the Yankees another workhorse who can pitch deep into games.
Let’s be clear: The Yankees’ starting rotation has been far better than anyone could have expected. A 3.86 ERA almost two-thirds of the way through the season, it’s been one of the key reasons why the Bombers have been a surprising postseason contender.
But the main problem has been the starting five’s inability to pitch deep into games this season. The staff as a whole has averaged just 5.66 innings per start, but that includes Luis Severino’s 6.38 innings averaged per start.
When you remove the ace’s contributions, the rest of the rotation has averaged under 5.5 innings per start.
Gray, quite simply, gives the Yanks another workhorse. He’s averaged over six innings per start in 2017, and he reached the 200-inning threshold in both 2014 and 2015. He also hasn’t gone any less than 4.2 innings in any start this season, and he hasn’t failed to complete six innings in any of his last six starts.
That kind of length should allow the Bombers’ group of relievers to stay rested and effective.
5. Down the Stretch
Gray is on an incredible tear of late. As previously mentioned, the 27-year-old right-hander has completed at least six innings in each of his last six starts, pitching to a 1.37 ERA during that span.
He’s also about to enter the month of August, where he’s traditionally excelled over the course of his young career. In 17 career starts during the month of August, he owns a 3.16 ERA.
But can he maintain that into the final month of the season? Gray’s career ERA is over 4.00 once the calendar hits September, hinting that the right-hander tends to fade as the season’s end draws near. In what figures to be a close race with the rival Red Sox, the Yankees will need their newest acquisition to be at his best all the way through Game 162.
Source: Ny Daily News