In what has become this year’s most unsurprising deadline trade, the New York Yankees acquired Sonny Gray and $1.5 million in international bonus money from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for prospects Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprelian. It wasn’t a matter of if the Yankees would get Gray but a matter of when and for whom. While Mateo was widely expected to be part of the deal, Fowler and Kaprielian came as a bit of a surprise.
A lot of trades generate winners and losers. This is not one of those trades, at least not yet. For the Yankees, they’re receiving an established and controllable young pitcher who will not only help them in 2017 but throughout the duration of his contract. The A’s will get three highly regarded Yankees prospects in Mateo, Fowler, and Kaprielian who ranked fourth, fifth, and ninth in the Yankees’ system respectively. The Yankees, who currently sit atop the AL East, will benefit from Gray’s presence this year and beyond. The A’s won’t see any of their guys in the big leagues this year but will play a huge role in their current rebuild.
My initial thoughts on the deal are that the Yankees got who the help they needed without having to give up key guys. When broken down player by player, it makes sense why Brian Cashman decided to pull the trigger on the deal.
Let’s start with Jorge Mateo. Named the Yankees’ “prospect of the year” in 2015 and once considered untouchable was bound to be on the move ever since No. 1 prospect Gleyber Torres came over from the Chicago Cubs. Mateo has had problems with inconsistency and maturity in the past but has shown this year that he is a legitimate future big leaguer.
Unfortunately for Mateo, he had plenty of competition in front of him in Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres after that. However, the Yankees thought so highly of him that they decided to try him at both second base and center field to get him to the big leagues. He adapted to these new positions well which increased his overall value and was part of the reason he was highly sought after on the trade market. Mateo is and will be a great player, but his shot at the Majors was not going to come with the Yankees anytime soon. He had to be moved, and now his path to the Majors is clearer than it has ever been.
Next up is Dustin Fowler. By now I’m sure everyone has heard of Dustin Fowler, albeit for the wrong reasons. Fowler made his Major League debut on June 29, starting in right field for the Yankees. While chasing down a foul ball in the very first inning, he slammed full speed into an electric box at Guaranteed Rate Field, rupturing his right patella tendon and ending his season. Yankee fans and baseball collectively are hoping to see Fowler back on the field sooner rather than later, regardless of what uniform he is wearing.
Finally, there’s James Kaprielian, the former top pitching and No. 5 overall prospect in the Yankees system. Kaprielian has been widely considered to be a future ace for the Yankees, even after undergoing Tommy John surgery at the beginning of the season. He has a repertoire that generates plenty of swings and misses, headlined by a fastball that has touched the high 9os. That was before the surgery, and there’s always the question of whether or not a pitcher can come back as good as before Tommy John surgery.
Kaprielian is the only one in the deal that I consider non-expendable on the Yankees’ side. The Yankees are a team that lacked young pitching and Kaprielian was thought to be a big part of the future rotation. That being said, the difference in abilities between him and Sonny Gray is not nearly great enough to hurt the Yankees in the long run. Gray is just 27 years old, is controllable, and has shown that he has ace-like abilities in the past. Kaprielian may very well become a Major League ace in the future, but two and half years of Gray in the rotation is more than worth the price.
The upside surrounding Fowler and Kaprielian is great without a doubt, but the A’s are taking a risk given their recent injuries. Both underwent season-ending surgeries and won’t resume baseball activities until early next year at the earliest. Even if their respected rehabs go according to plan, it’s unlikely they’ll factor into the A’s plans until 2019, and that’s perfectly OK. The A’s weren’t focused on this year, or even next, in this trade. Instead, they’re working on establishing a core of young players that will help them in the long run. Hopefully, they’re getting just that in Mateo, Fowler, and Kaprielian.
For the Yankees, Sonny Gray was the perfect candidate. He has dominant stuff and is under control for two years so he’ll factor into both this year and next year’s plans. While Gray was the only player heading to the Bronx, an undervalued part of the trade was the $1.5 million international bonus money the Yankees received. With a bunch of large contracts coming off the books after 2017, the Yankees will likely look to make a splash in the international free agent market after the season. This money could help land one of the big names such as Shohei Otani.
Big needs come with big prices. The Yankees had a big need if they wanted to compete down the stretch and subsequently paid a big price for it. Nonetheless, it was the right move on both sides. We’ll have to wait and see how the deal works out on the Athletics’ side, but the Yankees should reap the benefits as early as this week.