OAKLAND — The A’s turned rumor into reality Monday by dealing staff ace Sonny Gray to the New York Yankees just an hour or so before the non-waiver trade deadline.
In return, the A’s received three of the Yankees’ top-rated prospects — infielder/outfielder Jorge Mateo, right-hander James Kaprielian and outfielder Dustin Fowler. It’s a highly regarded trio but a risky return package in that Kaprielian is out for this season recovering from Tommy John surgery and Fowler suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this month.
Thus ends the speculation on where the trade deadline’s most talked about pitcher would end up. The only question for the A’s was whether to move their top trade chip now or wait until the offseason, when Gray still would have had value.
Gray is just the latest marquee name to be shipped out of Oakland in recent years, as the A’s appear destined for a third consecutive last-place finish that has once again left them in summer “sell” mode.
Earlier this month, they dealt relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Washington Nationals. Last season saw them deal starter Rich Hill and outfielder Josh Reddick at the deadline. And in 2015 it was starter Scott Kazmir, reliever Tyler Clippard and utility man Ben Zobrist who were traded away for prospects.
The concept of dealing Gray, a 2015 Cy Young finalist, has been speculated going back multiple years. The A’s decided to pull the trigger because the 27-year-old has rebounded with a strong season after a poor 2016 campaign. That — combined with the fact he’s under team control for the next two seasons, keeping him quite affordable — made him very attractive to many contending teams who have been on the hunt for starting pitching.
The A’s have built up the starting pitching depth throughout their organization via the draft and the trades of the past two seasons. That’s one reason they felt secure in dealing Gray, who is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts.
Had they waited until the winter to trade him, they potentially still could have gotten a haul in return. But they also risked a second-half dip in his performance or an injury that would have dented that value. Gray has spent substantial time on the disabled list each of the past two seasons.
But this deal ultimately will be judged on how these prospects the A’s received in return eventually pan out. Mateo, 22, was the Yankees’ No. 4 prospect by Baseball America opening the season. He was at Double-A and batting a combined.258 with eight home runs, 37 RBI and 39 stolen bases in 99 games split between Single-A and Double-A. Center field is said to perhaps be his best position, and he has elite speed. Worth noting: Mateo was suspended last season reportedly for lashing out at Yankee officials over a promotion that didn’t come his way.
Kaprielian, 23, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. He was the 16th overall draft pick in 2015 and was ranked the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect. Fowler, 22, was their No. 10 prospect. He suffered a devastating right knee injury in the first inning of his major league debut earlier this month, rupturing the patella tendon in his right knee. He’s out for the season, but when healthy is considered a five-tool prospect.
The departure of Gray, in particular, will be a tough pill for A’s fans to swallow from the standpoint that he’s the third “Face Of The Franchise”-type player the A’s have cut ties with this season, along with Doolittle and catcher Stephen Vogt, who was designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by Milwaukee.
As the 1 p.m. trade deadline hit, there was no sign of the A's trading first baseman Yonder Alonso or any other veterans.