Last July, the New York Yankees sent three of their top prospects (Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian) to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for starting pitcher Sonny Gray in a deadline-day trade.
Having posted a 1.48 ERA in July with Oakland before the trade, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the move.
In 11 starts with the Yankees to close out last season, Gray went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 65.1 innings pitched. In other words, he was decent, but didn’t live up to the hype.
Coming into this season, he was expected to take a jump forward.
But, that didn’t happen. As of Thursday, Gray has a 5.56 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and an 8-8 record through 21 starts. In 103.2 innings, he’s given up 112 hits and 64 earned runs.
But, his numbers at Yankee Stadium are especially abysmal. In 11 home starts, he has a 7.71 ERA and has given up 63 hits and 42 earned runs in just 49.0 innings. He’s also allowed a .313 batting average to opposing hitters in New York compared to .237 in 10 road starts. He’s also posted a 3.62 ERA on the road, suggesting his home/road splits are significant.
After going 3-1 with a 3.44 ERA in four July starts, it seemed like Gray was finally turning the corner. But, it all unraveled when he allowed seven earned runs on eight hits in just 2.2 innings against the historically-awful Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. He also smirked when being pulled from the game, which irked Yankees fans everywhere.
A day later, as a result of the performance, the team announced that he will be moved to the bullpen for the time being.
"Sonny Gray is a very good major league pitcher and we just haven't had the opportunity to really see that play out over an extended period of time," general manager Brian Cashman said on the Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, per Coley Harvey of ESPN. "I know that if he winds up somewhere else pitching, he's going to be pitching extremely well, because the equipment is all there, the stuff is all there, (but) consistently it's not playing out right here.”
Manager Aaron Boone is still optimistic about Gray, suggesting he could still turn things around.
"Sonny Gray is very close to being a really good starting pitcher -- still," he said. "Even in the starts where he's struggled, he's had moments in those starts, I'm sure if you ask opposing hitters, I'm sure they say, 'Man, this guy's nasty.’ … With our situation, it seems very fluid right now. As injuries pop up, it could change. We very well may need him back in the starting rotation very soon. He may pitch himself back into the starting rotation. Sometimes in baseball a narrative may go one way, but there's countless stories of people kind of resurrecting themselves in the course of a season even.”
One statistic suggests that Gray has had the worst season for a starting pitcher in the long history of the Yankees franchise.
Gray knows that he’s been given a lot of opportunities by the team, but hasn’t lived up to anyone’s expectations.
"I've struggled, and they've given me ample opportunities to turn it around," Gray admitted. "I'm going to go down there (to the bullpen) and hope to turn things around and get outs whenever my name's called upon. When it gets to this point in the season, it's about winning games, and to this point, today and in the near future, the best thing for this team will be for me to go down there.”
"I've struggled. I don't know if it has anything to do with New York or if it's just strictly on the field. It can be a struggle here. It can be a grind. But you can have one moment that can really ... change the narrative,” he said.
We will see if Gray can re-gain his confidence in the bullpen. Judging by their pitching staff, it seems like the Yankees could benefit if he’s able to emerge as a productive starter once again.
The newly-acquired Lance Lynn will take Gray's spot in the rotation.