Cincinnati Reds: What a trade for Sonny Gray might look like

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Sonny Gray #55 of the New York Yankees pitches in the third inning during game two of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on June 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Sonny Gray #55 of the New York Yankees pitches in the third inning during game two of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on June 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Who might the Cincinnati Reds be willing to trade the New York Yankees in exchange for the starting pitcher Sonny Gray?

Could starting pitcher Sonny Gray be Cincinnati bound? The current New York Yankee is said to be on the trading block. Both the Oakland A’s and Cincinnati Reds are said to have been in trade discussions for Sonny Gray, who posted an 11-9 record with a 4.90 ERA in 2018. What is intriguing about Gray is that his road ERA was 3.17.

Gray, a Nashville native, and former Vanderbilt Commodore debuted in 2013 with the Oakland Athletics. Sonny Gray was very successful in Oakland, posting a 44-36 record in 4.5 seasons with the As. One would think that Billy Beane would like to have this right-hander back in the fold.

I believe that a homecoming with newly hired Cincinnati Reds pitching coach, Derek Johnson, would create an immediate chemistry that would greatly benefit this Reds starting rotation; not to mention having a savvy veteran that’s “been there done that” to mentor the young Reds arms.

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The New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, is said to have given up on Sonny Gray and is seeking a shortstop to replace injured Didi Gregorius. Jon Morosi of MLB Network mentions Cincinnati Reds minor league prospect Jeter Downs by name. The 20-year old Downs hit .257 at Class A Dayton this past season with 13 Home Runs, 47 RBIs, and an eye-catching 37 stolen bases.

I saw Downs play last season when Dayton visited Bowling Green. I walked away very impressed with his raw talent. I am not sure that he is MLB ready, especially in New York, but I found it interesting that Morosi mentions him by name.

Sonny Gray is expected to make $9 million next season in his final year of arbitration. He will become a free agent in 2020. The Yankees certainly would not be content with just Jeter Downs in return. The question then becomes, who are the Reds willing to package as part of a trade that would bring Gray to the Queen City, thus solidifying the Cincinnati Reds starting pitching rotation

Cashman has already agreed to one-year deals with CC Sabathia and centerfielder Brett Gardner. However, being in an arms race with the Boston Red Sox, conventional thinking suggests that he is not finished orchestrating deals. One has to believe that the Reds must be willing to part with some frontline talent in order to get this deal done.

This suggested trade may not be popular amongst Reds fans, and to an extent, there is a bittersweet side of me that resists change as well. However, Tucker Barnhart could be a key piece to a trade for Gray.

The Yankees have serviceable catchers, but not what anyone considers Gold Glove quality, which Barnhart clearly is. The Reds could afford to part ways with Tucker Barnhart, especially with an expected advancement of Tyler Stephenson who has shown great promise in Class A.

The Reds certainly could begin the season with Curt Casali as the Opening Day Catcher, but as I alluded to in an article earlier this week, Yasmani Grandal did not accept the qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ironically, the former Red could finally make his debut as a Cincinnati Red after being a part of the 2012 trade with the San Diego Padres for Mat Latos. Perhaps the Reds could ffasttrackStephenson to AA/AAA with the intent of him making the big league club in 2020.

Another established major league starter that could factor into a trade is Scott Schebler. Personally, I like Schebler’s overall game. In short, he plays the game with reckless abandon, and when healthy has a lot of pop in his bat.

Case-in-point, in 2017 Scott hit 30 home runs and 67 RBIs with a .484 slugging percentage. He took a step back in 2018, with only 17 round-trippers and 49 RBIs, but a lot of that is attributed to his time in the second half of the season on the DL with a shoulder injury.

However, at 28 years old, and Jesse Winker already a budding star, along with minor leaguers Taylor Trammel and Nick Senzel factoring into the Reds outfield future, Schebler could prove a valuable part of the equation in a deal for a quality starter such as Sonny Gray.

Of course, the other current member of the Cincinnati Reds who is expendable is Billy Hamilton. Again, like Schebler, there are a lot of things I like and appreciate about Hamilton. However, considering his struggles at the plate, there comes a point where the Reds need to consider moving on from Billy in the name of a quality starting pitcher.

Granted, I am no General Manager. However, I have sat through this Reds rebuild long enough to recognize that it has reached a point where the Cincinnati Reds need to take some chances, especially as it pertains to acquiring a quality starting pitcher.

Therefore, if I am running the Nick and Dick Show, I would offer the following to the New York Yankees in exchange for Sonny Gray and high A-level pitching prospect: Jeter Downs, Billy Hamilton or Scott Schebler, and reluctantly Tucker Barnhart. If there is a need for an additional trade chip, perhaps a minor league catcher Chris Okey could be a part of the transaction.

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Again, I struggle with parting ways with Tucker, but catcher appears to be a position of need for the New York Yankees. No matter the pieces, I am of the opinion that a change of scenery in Cincinnati would benefit both Sonny Gray and our beloved Cincinnati Reds. I am just glad to even have these conversations in light of lack of activity in recent winters. Time will tell where this chatter leads.