At the 2017 trade deadline, the New York Yankees parted with three prospects to trade for Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics. They got a pitcher who finished third in the Cy Young voting just two years earlier, and was only 27 with two and a half years of team control remaining. The Yankees thought Gray would be a staple in the rotation for years to come.
Instead, things went south for Gray late in 2017, and even more in 2018. Last season he pitched to a 4.90 ERA in 130 1/3 innings, and was banished to the bullpen after the Yankees brought in J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn at the trade deadline. Gray was left off the team’s postseason roster and, a few weeks ago, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for a prospect and a draft pick.
“We are going to move him if we get the right deal because I don’t think it is going to work out in the Bronx,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said to reporters, including Joel Sherman of the New York Post, back in November. “I don’t feel like we can go through the same exercise and expect different results.”
Gray is now in spring training with the Reds, and earlier this week he spoke to The Athletic’s Eno Sarris about what went wrong during his time in New York, and how he’ll fix it. Here’s what he said:
“They had me throw more breaking balls than I ever had before,” Gray said of New York.
It’s just they had him throwing the wrong breaking ball.
“I can’t command my slider that well,” the new Reds starter admitted. “I want to throw my slider in the dirt with two strikes, and that’s about it. I don’t have that type of slider, like (Masahiro) Tanaka’s slider. His slider, the catcher will catch it, and the batter will swing and miss. If I get a swing and miss, the catcher is blocking it in the dirt. When I try to throw sliders for a strike, I get around it and it’s just a (s—-y) spinning pitch. I don’t know how people throw sliders for strikes that are still tight, good pitches. I’m at 2-0 and I’m throwing a slider, and either I’m throwing a (s—–y) slider in the zone, or I’m yanking it into the dirt and it’s 3-0 and I’m screwed either way.
“They love sliders,” he said of the Yankees. “Sliders are a great pitch. The numbers say slider is a good pitch, but you might not realize how many (s—-y) counts you’re getting in while throwing all those sliders. They wanted me to be Tanaka and I’m way different from him.”
Do you think it just might be time for Sonny Gray to stop talking about The Yankees and take some blame for not being able to live up to the pressure in New York?