The Cincinnati Reds finalized a trade on Monday that was months in the making, acquiring right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray from the New York Yankees while sending minor league second baseman Shed Long to the Seattle Mariners and a compensation round draft pick to New York. The Mariners sent minor league outfielder Josh Stowers to the Yankees to complete the trade.
Fancred’s Jon Heyman was on top of the trade for most of the weekend, but ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to announce the deal was done.
Sonny Gray has been traded to the Cincinnati Reds, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 21, 2019
The extension, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, is said to be worth $30.5 million over the 2020-2022 seasons, with a club option for $12 million in 2023. Gray originally agreed to a one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Yankees in arbitration.
Gray, 29, is coming off a season that qualifies as one of the worst of his career, recording a 4.90 ERA over 130.1 innings with 8.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 in his first full season in New York. He has a career ERA of 3.66, a career FIP of 3.74, and 13.0 bWAR over six seasons.
Once regarded as one of the game’s best young starters, Gray’s career has been something of a rollercoaster since he debuted for the Oakland A’s in 2013. He posted 1.5 bWAR in his rookie season before adding a 3.3 bWAR season in 2014, then broke out with a 5.3 bWAR season in 2015 that landed him third place in that here’s Cy Young voting, as well as his only All-Star game selection.
In the three years since that breakout, Gray hasn’t been able to replicate those results. He suffered through a 5.69 ERA in 117 innings in 2016, but briefly re-established himself enough in 2017 for the Yankees to trade three well-regarded prospects for him at the deadline. In 195.2 innings with New York, Gray had a 4.51 ERA and a 4.40 FIP.
A large proponent in the deal getting done, it would seem, was new Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson, who served as Gray’s pitching coach during his collegiate career at Vanderbilt that ultimately made him a first round pick by the A’s in 2011. Another Vanderbilt pitching alumni, Caleb Cotham, also joined the Reds as an assistant coach this winter.
In exchange for Gray, the Reds gave up minor league second baseman Shed Long. Long, 23, was Cincinnati’s seventh-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and is coming off a full season at AA in which he hit .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers, 57 walks and 19 stolen bases. Long was drafted as a catcher by the Reds in the 12th round in 2013, but switched to second base and quickly developed a reputation as a well-rounded hitter with solid plate discipline, decent pop and above-average speed to go with a slightly below average glove.
The Reds also received 22-year-old minor league left-hander Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in the trade. Sanmartin pitched at four levels of the Yankees’ minor league system in 2018, and held a 2.81 ERA in 67.1 innings with 58 strikeouts and just four walks.
Gray is the third starting pitcher added by the Reds via trade since the end of the 2018 season. On Dec. 12, 2018, the Reds received 32-year-old righty Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals in exchange for reliever Tanner Rainey. Cincinnati followed that deal up by acquiring 28-year-old left-hander Alex Wood — along with outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp and utility player Kyle Farmer — from the Dodgers in exchange for Homer Bailey and minor leaguers Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray.
The flurry of moves have followed a declaration from ownership and front office members of the Reds organization that the team was setting out to “get the pitching” this winter, after four consecutive seasons finishing last place in the National League Central division. A substantial part of the blame for those last place finishes can be placed upon a pitching staff which, since the beginning of the 2016 season, has mustered a mere 9.2 fWAR, good for worst in baseball, and just over a third of the total of the 29th-place Miami Marlins (24 fWAR).
This winter’s moves give the Reds three new starters to add to a starting rotation that is also likely to include Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani, with the likes of Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, Cody Reed, Lucas Sims and Sal Romano also jockeying for time.
With the extension, Gray becomes the first of the three starters added by the Reds this offseason who will remain under team control past 2019.
Cincinnati has not signed an MLB free agent contract this offseason, but have been linked to some of the biggest names on the trade market all winter, including two-time Cy Young-winner Corey Kluber and all-world catcher J.T. Realmuto. They have also been linked to notable free agents such as Dallas Keuchel and A.J. Pollack.