Sonny Gray of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning on Sept. 11, 2018, at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

MB plays Braves GM: I’d swap Julio Teheran for Sonny Gray

Of the pitchers apt to be available in trade (as opposed to free agency), the one that intrigues me is Sonny Gray. He was a hot item at the 2017 trade deadline, and the Yankees, who tend to get what they want, got him from the A’s. Then, as sometimes happens with players who land in New York, Gray wasn’t as good as advertised. Last month, general manager Brian Cashman said: “We are going to move him if we get the right deal because I don’t think it’s going to work out in the Bronx.” 

Jon Heyman of Fancred reported this week that the four teams making eyes at Gray are the Reds, Padres, Mariners – and the Braves. The Winter Meetings in Las Vegas adjourn this afternoon, and nothing Gray-related has happened yet, which isn’t to say nothing will. George King of the New York Post reports that the Yankees are seeking “high-end major-league talent” in return, which is, you’d have to say, a lot to ask for a pitcher you don’t want. 

As mentioned yesterday, the two players among this everyday eight who could be moved are Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson. The Yankees have so many outfielders – Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, not to mention 24-year-old Clint Frazier of Loganville – that they don’t need another. They also have Didi Gregorius to play shortstop, though not for the first part of next season: He had Tommy John surgery in October.

The Yankees have a top-10 farm system, though lately they’ve graduated some big names, Gleyber Torres being the biggest. They’re back in win-now mode, and they mightn’t be interested in the passel-of-prospects everybody else wants from the Braves. They might, however, have interest in Julio Teheran. 

Think about it. Gray is listed as the Yankees’ No. 5 starter, behind Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. If they trade their No. 5, they’ll need a No. 5, and that’s about where Teheran stands here. He made the postseason roster, but worked only in the late innings of the closeout Game 4. 

It was clear Brian Snitker was afraid to use him with a game on the line – the Braves trailed 6-2 when he entered in the seventh, Chad Sobotka having just yielded the clinching home run to Manny Machado – and from that you could extrapolate that their opening-day starter five years running had fallen from his manager’s good graces. Anthopoulos said later that month that the Braves would be OK with keeping with Teheran in their rotation, but that might have been a bit of salesmanship.

Gray-for-Teheran could be the classic change-of-scenery deal. (Sceneries, in this case.) They’re close in age: Gray just turned 29; Teheran turns 28 next month. Teheran is under contract through the 2020 season. Gray is arbitration-eligible this winter and will become a free agent at season’s end. Teheran had a 1.8 Baseball Reference WAR to Gray’s 0.6 in 2018.

The knock on Gray is that he stunk out the Big Apple. Away from there, he was pretty darn good. His numbers at Yankee Stadium last season: 59-1/3 innings, 45 strikeouts against 35 walks, a 1.904 WHIP and a 6.98 ERA. His numbers elsewhere: 71 innings, 78 strikeouts against 22 walks, a 1.155 WHIP and a 3.17 ERA. There’s nothing wrong with his arm. It just that he’s not, ahem, in a New York state of mind. 

Gray is from the Nashville area. He played at Vanderbilt. SunTrust Park being on the north side of town, he might make it home to Music City in under four hours. (His mileage may vary, as they say.) He’d surely see the opportunity to join a burgeoning young team in the capital of the Deep South as the best second chance he’ll ever have, and the Braves could use another starter to keep from having to force-feed Kyle Wright or Ian Anderson into the breach. 

As for Teheran: He just might take to NYC. He wouldn’t be starting on opening day. He’d be in a rotation that includes Sabathia, who made the transition from thrower to craftsman, which is essentially what Teheran has done the past few years. (Though it was never clear why he stopped trusting his fastball.) New Yorkers would note his non-deployment as a starter in the NLDS and would raise a Bronx cheer, but those same New Yorkers once saw the Yankees’ new manager hailed in a tabloid as “Clueless Joe.” The man’s last name was Torre. 

I imagine there’d need to be some makeweights on both sides in such a deal, and I know Cashman would look at Teheran and see what all of baseball sees – a pitcher who has had three middling years in the past four. The one good year, however, was in 2016, when then-GM John Coppolella refused to trade him despite manifold overtures. Nobody’s beating down Anthopoulos’ door for Teheran now, but the Yankees have put themselves in a position where they have to offload Gray. They’ll eventually realize that they’re selling low, too. 

And that’s it. That’s my venture into Armchair GM’ing this winter. I’ll let Mr. Anthopoulos take it from here. As noted once or twice, he’s pretty good at this.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley
Mark Bradley
Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.

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