5:15 PM: The second trade is now official, sending Long from the Yankees to Seattle for Stowers. If we’re basing length of Yankees career by @YankeesPR tweets, Long was a Yankee for 10 minutes.
5:05 PM: The Yankees have announced the first part of today’s trades, as Gray and Sanmartín are officially members of the Reds now. No word on the follow-up trade with Seattle.
Stowers was the 54th overall pick in the 2018 draft, and was ranked No. 10 in the Mariners farm system. He started his career in Short-A, where he hit .260/.380/.410 (126 wRC+) with five home runs. Stowers does not have to be protected on the 40-man roster until December 2021, whereas Long would have to be placed on the Yankees’ 40-man roster.
With thinned-out outfield depth rearing its ugly head last season, the Yankees replenish by adding Stowers to their system. I’d imagine he’ll being 2019 in Extended Spring Training before going to either Charleston or Staten Island before finishing the season in Tampa.
4:09 PM: Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Gray has officially been traded to Cincinnati.
Gray has agreed to a three-year, $30.5 million extension with a $12.5 million club option for 2023, according to Rosenthal. Long, formerly the Reds’ No. 7 prospect, will be part of the Yankees’ return, per Passan. The Yankees will receive the No. 36 overall pick in the 2019 Rule 4 Draft as well. The Yankees will send 22-year-old lefty Reiver Sanmartín to the Reds to complete the deal.
12:19 PM: The Yankees “had … deals with other clubs in place Friday,” and could pivot if the Reds are unable to agree to an extension with Gray and his agent by the deadline today, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. The deadline for negotiations could be 5 p.m. or midnight, though it is unclear which according to Feinsand.
Previous reports have indicated the Athletics, Braves, Brewers, Giants and more could be interested in dealing for Gray still.
10:30 AM: The moment Brian Cashman had indicated would come in November 2018 seems to have finally arrived. Per multiple reports across baseball media, the Yankees will trade right-hander Sonny Gray to the Cincinnati Reds pending negotiations on an extension to keep him at Great American Ballpark.
The reported return for Gray would be Reds No. 7 prospect Shed Long, as well as the Reds’ Competitive Balance A pick in the 2019 Rule 4 Draft. That pick will be No. 36 overall. This return appears dependent on the Reds working out an extension with Gray within the 72-hour negotiating window, which reportedly ends “late Monday,” per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The Reds appear ready to buy into a bounce-back campaign from Gray, who stumbled to a 4.90 ERA and was demoted to long relief by the end of the 2018 campaign. The 29-year-old held a great 3.17 ERA away from Yankee Stadium, and limited opponents to a .614 OPS in a 71-inning sample away from the Bronx. At Yankee Stadium, however, Gray got bombed to a 6.98 ERA and .932 OPS against. To use player comparisons, hitters averaged Nolan Arenado numbers at Yankee Stadium while putting up worse than Billy Hamilton numbers on the road.
Despite pitching fewer innings at home, Gray walked 13 more batters in the Bronx and allowed eight more home runs. Something about the crowd or the construction of the stadium made Gray nibble, or lose command of his pitches. Then, once in trouble because of walks, he could never make the big pitch to get out of his own mess.
It remains to be seen how Gray will do at Great American Ballpark, which had a less favorable park factor for pitchers (per Baseball Reference) in 2018.
It’s pretty amazing that Brian Cashman could turn Gray into a top-10 prospect. Shed Long, a 23-year-old converted catcher, was a 12th-round pick of the Reds in 2013. His position change to second base in 2015 led to an offensive breakout in 2016, which saw him hit .293/.371/.471 with 15 home runs between Class-A Dayton and High-A Daytona.
His development continued in 2017 by repeating most of the season in Daytona, with a stellar .922 OPS in 62 games. He then spent the final 42 games in Double-A Pensacola with a .680 OPS, although he missed time with a wrist injury. He played 126 games at Double-A in 2018, hitting .261/.353/.412 with 12 home runs. He also had a 19-game cameo in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .241/.333/.310 for Scottsdale.
From his MLB Pipeline scouting report: “As long as he can maintain average, or close to it, defense, Long should have a long career as an offensive-minded second baseman. His bat shouldn’t take too much longer to be ready for Great American Ball Park.”
The more intriguing possibility for the Yankees here is the No. 37 pick in the 2019 draft. Brian Cashman has always pursued extra opportunities to acquire high-quality talent. Are they acquiring the pick just to stockpile, or are they planning to incur some kind of draft pick penalty in the future? If the Yankees go over $246 million in payroll, they would “have their highest selection in the next Rule 4 Draft moved back 10 places”. That would have them pick 40th instead of at 30. Should they sign Bryce Harper, or any other free agent who was extended a qualifying offer, they would forfeit their second-round pick (No. 68) as well as $500,000 from their international bonus pool.
Either way, the pick could bring massive benefit to the Yankees.