The Reds seem ready to end Sonny Gray’s nightmare tenure with the Yankees, but what will the final terms of the deal look like?
The nicest thing Yankees fans are willing to say about Sonny Gray’s time in New York is that it seems like it’s almost over. According to multiple sources, the Cincinnati Reds are close to giving Gray the fresh start he so desperately needs.
There was never much question over whether Gray would don pinstripes in 2019. Brian Cashman made it abundantly clear that his intention was to give the beleaguered pitcher a fresh start somewhere else. Cashman’s position softened slightly when CC Sabathia underwent an unexpected heart procedure, but once the big southpaw was given a clean bill of health the Yankees redoubled their efforts to find a new home for Gray.
The biggest question surrounding Gray’s status with the Yankees this winter is whether or not Cashman would actually be able to net a meaningful return for such a distressed asset. Evidently, the answer to that question is a pretty resounding yes. Jon Heyman reports that Reds prospects Shed Long and Tyler Stephenson have both been discussed. It’s also a possibility that draft compensation can be a part of the transaction. For the record, Stephenson and Long check in at No. 6 and No. 7 respectively on MLB.com’s rankings of Reds prospects.
There is, however, a potential hangup in the deal. Long is already a member of Cincinnati’s 40-man roster. That means if he’s traded to the Yankees they must immediately place him on their 40-man. Currently, New York is overcommitted on that front. They need to move Gray just to clear the roster spot required to formally add Adam Ottavino.
That leaves the Yankees and Reds with two clear options. Firstly, New York could choose to include another member of their 40-man roster in the deal. Luis Cessa would probably be the team’s preferred option. He doesn’t figure into Cashman’s long-term plans in the bullpen and he’s out of options. It’s very possible he’ll be the first player designated for assignment if the Yankees choose to make another free agent acquisition. A deal sending both Gray and Cessa to Cincinnati in exchange for Long would make sense for both parties.
The other clear alternative is for the Yankees to shift their focus on a prospect who isn’t currently on Cincinnati’s 40-man roster. That might make Stephenson slightly more attractive. Acquiring another catching prospect isn’t as beneficial for the Yankees as adding a talented middle infielder, but Stephenson might provide enough value to ignore the positional considerations. The two franchises could swap Gray for Stephenson without making any other moves.
The good news for Yankees fans is that quite a few teams are interested in Gray. That looks to be forcing the Reds hand quite a bit. Getting a top-10 prospect from Cincinnati would be a great return for a pitcher who has zero value in the Bronx.