With Sonny Gray making his Cincinnati Reds debut, let’s take a look at how the extension he signed this offseason could prove to be a steal for the team.
As Sonny Gray looks to begin his tenure with the Cincinnati Reds, many fans are hoping and praying that the 2015 version of Gray shows up. They want the same player that fans around the league got to see in Cincinnati for the All-Star game that year. Although he didn’t pitch in that game, his 2015 season was fun to watch and the Reds are hoping for similar results.
Gray finished 3rd in Cy Young voting in 2015 with a 2.73 ERA in 208 innings in an Oakland Athletics uniform. That pitcher, is the pitcher the Cincinnati Reds signed up for when they agreed to a trade with the New York Yankees in January, and decided to extend Gray with a 3 year/$30.5M contract.
After seeing how Gray’s time in New York went (4.51 ERA) and how adamant Yankees GM Brian Cashman was to get rid of Gray, some people around the league questioned why a team would dish out $10M a year for this kind of pitcher. But, the Reds believe that this contract will end up being a huge bargain for the front office.
Along with acquiring some new pitchers this offseason, the Reds also acquired a new man to oversee these pitchers. Former Milwaukee Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson is now manning the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff, something that will surely make Gray feel right at home. Johnson coached Gray at Vanderbilt where Sonny was the teams ‘ace’ and led the Commodores to their first ever College World Series.
The addition of Johnson will surely calm Gray’s nerves and make him feel comfortable knowing that his pitching coach knows exactly how to the get the most out of him. Reports have already come out that they have been working together to refine Gray’s pitch mix and get him back to the pitcher Johnson knows he can be.
Gray’s struggles as a Yankee have been well documented the past couple years. However, if you look a little closer at his stats, it’s easy to see that Gray still showed flashes of being the Oakland version of himself.
As a Yankee, when pitching on the road, Gray sported a 2.84 ERA, including a 3.17 ERA as the away pitcher in 2018. Although many fans might claim that this problem has to do with Yankee Stadium being a hitter friendly ballpark, Gray’s problem may have been more of a mental block of throwing in front of New York fans. The pressure of being a Yankee can weigh on many people, and that may have been the root of Gray’s problems.
Gray has been a ground ball pitcher his whole career, so that will play well in Great American Ball Park. Also, fans will most likely take a liking to Gray and show him their full support as they have been hungry for successful starting pitching since getting rid of Johnny Cueto. The stats confirm that Gray is still a good pitcher outside of Yankee Stadium, and with a more lowkey environment like Cincinnati, it could be the perfect spot for Gray to thrive.
So when examining the acquisition of Sonny Gray there are many things that lead the Reds to believe they will be getting a steal. Gray is only due $10.5M through 2022, with a club option for the 2023 season. Pairing Gray back up with familiar faces, and getting him out of Yankee Stadium will allow him to outperform that contract by a large margin.
Gray is earning less per year than guys like Matt Harvey, Jeff Samardzija, and Jordan Zimmermann. If he can get back to the 2015 version of himself, an AAV of about $10M will have the Cincinnati Reds front office and fans smiling for a few years.