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Acquired RHP Sonny Gray and international signing bonus slot money from Oakland Athletics in exchange for OF-L Dustin Fowler, INF/OF-R Jorge Mateo, and RHP James Kaprielian. [7/31]
Some Yankees fans were growing a little weary as deadline day went on, because in the past when the Yankees’ trade intentions have been leaked in the press things haven’t always worked out (see: Cliff Lee in 2010). So when it was announced that Gray was indeed on his way to New York, Yankee fans rejoiced. This move showed that the Yankees are serious about contending this season, and in the 27-year-old right-hander they've added a frontline starter around whom the rotation can be built for several years.
It’s funny how that happened, isn’t it? This wasn’t supposed to be that type of year for the Yankees. This was their “rebuilding” year or their “transition” year, but since it turned into a different kind of season entirely, general manager Brian Cashman made the bold move to add Gray. So what are the Yankees getting? Gray has been fantastic of late, posting a 2.73 ERA and 63/20 K/BB ratio in 63 innings since May 1, and his 3.07 DRA on the season ranks ninth in the American League, one spot behind Yu Darvish (3.05) and four spots behind new rotation-mate Luis Severino (2.85).
His career DRA is 2.78, including marks of 2.66, 3.14, and 2.97 from 2013-2015, before an injury wrecked 2016. He's had a ground-ball rate above 50 percent every season, including 56.7 percent this year, and Gray's strikeout and walk rates are in line with his career norms. He's fully recovered from the health issues that made him a question mark coming into the season and he's under team control through 2019, with a modest $3.575 million salary this year.
Gray joins the newly acquired Jaime Garcia in the rotation along with Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia, which is a massive improvement. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery may be the odd man out, as manager Joe Girardi has said that he won't be going to a six-man rotation and the rookie is nearing his inning limit. It's been a while since the Yankees have been viewed as a real playoff threat, but they're leading the AL East and have addressed the biggest weakness on the team in a big way.
Another thing this move does is it makes the Yankees the Yankees again. Last season’s trade deadline was a bit of a role reversal for Cashman and the front office, as they became sellers after so many years of being buyers. However, what happened last summer also set them up nicely for this year’s trade deadline. Cashman was able to put his foot down on some of Billy Beane’s demands, among them top prospects Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres, who were acquired during last year’s selling bonanza. New York was able to keep certain players off limits and still deal from one of the strongest farm systems in baseball.
When the season began, there were a lot of questions concerning the Yankees’ starting rotation, and some of those will remain after the season. Will Sabathia become a free agent and finish his career elsewhere? Will Tanaka opt out and leave? And Michael Pineda, who just had Tommy John surgery, also becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Gray now gives the Yankees some stability and more youth in the rotation, to go along with Severino and Montgomery. It also gives them a better chance to make a run to the playoffs and make a Division Series for the first time since 2012. —Stacey Gotsulias
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Acquired OF-L Dustin Fowler, INF/OF-R Jorge Mateo, and RHP James Kaprielian from New York Yankees in exchange for RHP Sonny Gray and international signing bonus slot money. [7/31]
If you’re being particularly friendly to Oakland, you could call Fowler a five-tool, MLB-ready outfielder. It wouldn’t technically be wrong—he’s already made The Show after conquering Triple-A in the first three months of 2017, and he projects to have five average-or-better tools. But it overstates a likely outcome somewhere between excellent fourth outfielder and average regular, and it undersells the unique risk of a severe knee injury from which Fowler is just starting to rehab.
Once a projectable prep athlete, Fowler consecutively added the ability to hit for average in 2015 and the ability to hit for power in 2016 to a skill set that already included plus speed. He’s always been at least passable in center field, and he frequently got comps to Brett Gardner, who similarly could play center when he had to but really excelled in the corners. There’s always the potential for this profile to end up as a tweener, just a little short in glove to play six days a week in center and just a little short in bat for the corners, so fourth outfielder or platoon player was always on the card. Add in the potential for 20-30 steals a season, and the profile’s pretty nifty, with the potential for further breakouts.
Fowler’s inclusion in this deal would’ve made far more sense before his first MLB game a month ago, when he ran into a low right field wall in Chicago and ruptured his patella tendon, a potentially career-threatening injury. It was among the more disturbing leg injuries you’re going to see on a baseball field, and it probably won’t be before spring training when we know if or how Fowler’s skills are diminished. It is unusual to see a player traded so soon after such a devastating injury, because the risk and variance profile goes through the roof until we can see them back on the field. Fowler seems like an especially high risk given how much of his profile is dependent on speed and the ability to sometimes play center. —Jarrett Seidler
All health concerns aside, Kaprielian a good bet to be a major leaguer. Dating back to the several looks I had while in the Arizona Fall League, his stuff is powerful. The four-seam fastball is anywhere from 92-97 mph, sitting 93-95, and at times has mild two-seam action when down in the zone. Rarely, he cuts the fastball, which has flashed darting action. Though the fastball can get flat and barreled for fly balls, he can also generate swings and misses with it.
The off-speeds are also impressive—all three of them—with the slider being the best and most used of them all. The slider sits 84-88, with late 10-4 break and depth, and he can backdoor or backfoot it to lefties. The changeup and curveball vacillate between third and fourth pitch depending on the day, but have shown at least average to solid-average. The curveball is a power curveball with edge and bite, ranging 81-84, with similar action to the slider but with bigger depth. The changeup, also sits in the 82-85 velocity band, and acts more like a splitter, showing sharp tumble and cutting action at times.
The best part is that Kaprielian can command and control all of his pitches, allowing him to sequence and pitch. The command also allows him to generate swings and misses both in and out of the zone against either lefties or righties. He has the stuff, presence, command, and feel for pitching of a major leaguer at age 22. Now, the risky part: Because of injuries, he has only pitched a grand total of 56 minor-league innings since July 2015. —Javier Barragan
Depending on when you saw Mateo in the past three years, your opinion on where he slots in this deal can either be as the first, second, or thirrd piece.
First piece: As I saw him last year, an up-the-middle player with 80 speed, plus hitting ability, more power than you would think, and the ability to play shortstop at the highest level.
Second piece: If you saw him in the South Atlantic League in 2015, an 80 runner who struggled to get on base, but still showcased athleticism you rarely see. Lacked power but still had strong wrists and looked like a useful player.
Third piece: If you saw Mateo in Tampa this season, like I have. The hit tool seemed to have eroded, he got far too aggressive and struggled to get on base, which is where his 80 speed does all his damage. Mateo looked to do more over the fence rather than focus on hard line drives. He also has played less shortstop, and more second and center field. He looked fine at second base in my viewings, with a strong arm, but still has the same inconsistencies that has hampered him at shorstop. —Steve Givarz
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