Trade Analysis: It's Now Sonny in Cincinnati

The long-rumored Sonny Gray deal is finally completed, and wouldn’t you know it, IT’S A THREE-TEAM DEAL! The Bronx Bombers sent Sonny Gray and LHP Reiver Sanmartin to the Reds for 2B Shed Long and a Competitive Balance Round A Pick. The Yankees then flipped Long to the Mariners for 2018 draftee Josh Stowers. We’ve heard rumors of this trade for seemingly a week or so, and of course Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto had to get involved. He’s been the saving grace in what has been a mostly dull offseason.

Reds Receive Sonny Gray, RHP, and Reiver Sanmartin, LHP

Upon completion of the trade Sonny Gray signed a three-year extension with the Reds worth $30.5 million along with a $12 million team option that could keep Gray in Cincinnati through the 2023 season. The Reds are taking a flier on the former Vanderbilt arm after a tumultuous 2018 that saw him get removed from the Yankees rotation and left off their playoff roster. He appeared in 30 games for the Yankees, making 23 starts posting a 4.90 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP, his worst season since an injury riddled 2016 campaign in Oakland.

Gray is at the top of a new look Reds rotation that includes LHP Alex Wood, RHP Tanner Roark, RHP Luis Castillo and RHP Anthony DeSclafani. The Reds are gambling that he pitches more like the guy away from Yankee Stadium (3.17 ERA; 78 Ks in 71 IP) than the one that called Yankee Stadium home (6.98 ERA; 45 Ks in 59.1 IP). The righty also allowed 11 homers at home compared to only three on the road. A quick look at his pitch-mix shows some significant changes in how Gray attacked hitters from 2017 to 2018. According to FanGraphs he dropped his 4-seam fastball usage 20%, down to 35%, and it looks like the additional 20% went to his cutter, although that could also be just a classification issue as the velocity was the same as his four-seamer. He also went to his curveball more (13.9% to 22.8%) at the expense of his changeup (14.9% to 4.7%). The biggest issue might be his walk rate which jumped from 8.4% in 2017 to 9.8% in 2018 (3.16 BB/9 to 3.94 BB/9). The groundball rate and strikeout rates remained stagnant. There’s a solid chance for a rebound here as Gray gets to face National League lineups now. Great American Ballpark isn’t my preferred destination though as it was the most hitter friendly park for homers last year, and Yankee Stadium was sixth. Also, upgrading from Gary Sanchez to Tucker Barnhart is worth noting.

One aspect of this that makes this even more interesting for Sonny Gray is the Reds hired Gray’s pitching coach while at Vanderbilt, Derek Johnson, to the same position for the Reds. Johnson has a strong resumé and as well as being the former Commodore pitching coach he was the Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator in 2012, then the Brewers pitching coach from 2016-18 and is now with the Reds.

In addition to Gray the Reds also acquired left-handed pitching prospect Reiver Sanmartin in the deal. Sanmartin was originally signed by the Texas Rangers out of Colombia in 2012 and made his way to the Yankees in a deal for RHP Ronald Herrera. Sanmartin spent 2018 touching four different affiliates and climbed as high as Double-A Trenton where he made a single start.

The high-waisted lefty has a loose, athletic delivery and is one of the best strike-throwers in the minor leagues. His primary pitch is a sinker that sits 88-92 and he also throws a slider and a change. He commands his entire arsenal extremely well. He projects as a situational lefty due to the low-arm slot.

Mariners Acquire Shed Long, 2B

Our own Ralph Lifshitz wrote up Shed Long when he did his Reds top 30 list. Here is a portion of what he wrote.

“There’s 80-grade names and then there’s Shed Long. The Mariners second baseman has one of the more interesting prospect backgrounds, a former catcher, Long moved to the middle infield in 2015 and never looked back. Now a full-time second baseman, he brings a varied skill set that features on-base ability, power, some speed, and an above-average fielding profile. With a full season at Double-A in 2018, and a stint in the Arizona Fall League, Long looks primed for a shot in Seattle at some point in 2019. Though it’s likely toward the end of the season. I believe Long is one of the more underrated prospects in baseball, and it’s due to a variety of factors, paramount among them… I LOVE the swing.”

He goes on and drops a future 55-hit/50-power package on Shed and I agree with that assessment. The Mariners have come forward and announced that they are planning on using Long all around the infield, and with an emphasis on third base. He’s a plus athlete and this approach by the Mariners is an intriguing one, as reports about his second base defense are a mixed bag. Long is now on the Mariners 40-man roster.

Yankees Acquire Josh Stowers, OF and 36th Overall Pick in 2019 Draft

The Yankees picked up Josh Stowers, the 54th overall pick in the 2018 draft. The former Louisville Cardinal was ranked 11th on the Mariners top 30 before the trade. Here is what our own Ralph Liftshitz wrote about Stowers:

“The 54th overall selection in this year’s draft out of Louisville, Stowers offers a leadoff hitters profile, but his average defensive ability might limit his upside. Stowers had a difficult run early in his 2018 campaign with the Cardinals, but reworked his swing, gearing more toward line drive contact than fly-balls. The momentum carried through to his Northwest League stint where he flashed decent power, while raising hell on the bases. His base-stealing instincts look like they will play at the next level. He gets excellent jumps and reads, skills he flashed at Louisville and down the Cape over the summer of 2017.

My favorite element of Stowers’ game is his elite on base ability, allowing him to utilize his speed and great base-running instincts. I’m not sure the amount of power in the bat, as he’s around 40% flyball now with a near 50% pull rate now. But he’s shown enough to shoot the gaps, which combined with his speed, and on base ability gives him a nice offensive ceiling if it develops fully. The Chicago native is similar to Corey Ray in many ways, but has made more consistent contact thus far. Likely a fourth outfielder type, with the ability to provide some offense.”

Stowers had a strong introduction to pro ball and gives the Yankees another prospect for their stockpile. It also gives the Yankees an additional 40-man roster spot since Gray and Long required one.