New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman came through and acquired righty Sonny Gray from the Oakland A’s, and it’s time to recognize him as the best GM in all of baseball.
Per multiple reports, Cashman’s Yankees acquired Gray while sending three prospects to Oakland: speedster Jorge Mateo, outfielder Dustin Fowler, and right-hander James Kaprielian. It looked like a deal wouldn’t happen at some point, but the veteran GM pulled off some epic deals for the second year in a row.
The deal for Gray
Just how great a trade the Yankees made for Gray is seen in who will be headed to Oakland. Mateo only just turned 22 years of age and has 221 steals in six minor league seasons. He actually had 82 steals across two levels of A-ball in 2015 and scouts are already saying he could be as fast as Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton, if not even faster.
The real genius of the Gray trade, however, comes in the two other pieces Oakland acquired, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian. Fowler is 22 and hit .293 with 13 home runs, 43 RBI and 13 steals at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year, while Kaprielian was the Yankees’ first-round pick in 2015 and posted a 1.55 ERA with a 0.76 WHIP in 29 minor league innings, not to mention 36 strikeouts. Scouts initially projected him as a No. 2 or 3 starter upon being drafted, but his ceiling could be higher.
But here’s the kicker: both Fowler and Kaprielian are out for the season. Kaprielian underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year and missed most of last year with an elbow sprain, while Fowler blew out his knee chasing a fly ball in his major league debut against the Chicago White Sox this year. Considering his speed has been named as his best strength, there’s no telling how recovery from a torn patellar tendon will affect his overall game.
And in spite of all of that, Cashman convinced Oakland to take on those two along with Mateo and managed to keep top prospects like pitchers Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams, not to mention Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres.
No doubt about it, the Yankees won this deal.
The genius of Cashman
The Yankees have made some questionable personnel decisions since Cashman became GM back in 1998, but today is just further proof that his great decisions outweigh his bad ones.
Allow me to take you beloved readers back to last season when Cashman traded both Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller despite New York just barely being in the AL Wild Card race. Rather than gamble and wait for a hot streak that may or may not come, Cashman sent Chapman to the Chicago Cubs and Miller to the Cleveland Indians so the Yankees could deepen their minor league system.
New York received one of baseball’s best prospects in Torres from Chicago, while a former Top 5 draft pick in Frazier was received from Cleveland. Cashman knew that both teams really needed some extra bullpen help and made sure that nothing less than top dollar would head to New York if he was going to sacrifice his team’s season. Sure enough, both Cleveland and Chicago made it to the World Series and heavily on the backs of both Chapman and Miller’s arms.
And Cashman did just that again with Oakland in acquiring Gray, but in reverse. He knew that the last-place A’s wouldn’t be contenders for at least a few more years, so them asking for MLB-ready prospects didn’t make any sense. Providing them someone like Frazier, Torres or even Chance Adams would only serve to sell tickets to A’s games for the rest of the season and beyond, not necessarily turn Oakland into a championship-caliber team.
It’s as though Cashman got Billy Beane on the phone and said “You’re not really in a position to make demands of me regarding Gray, who you won’t retain long-term anyway. Let’s make a realistic deal instead.”
And it worked. The Yankees now have someone who will be in pinstripes for at least the next two seasons and, despite injury concerns, has a high ceiling and is good at generating groundball outs. Between this and the acquisition of Jaime Garcia from the Minnesota Twins, New York’s starting rotation is looking like one that could lead the team to a playoff berth at the very least.
It’s all because of the genius that is Brian Cashman, who should now come with a warning label for opposing GMs.
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