SAN FRANCISCO — In his first year with the Giants, pitching coach Curt Young received plenty of praise for his work with young starters Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez. He also was frequently mentioned by veteran Derek Holland, who needed a fresh start after a brutal year with the White Sox.
What could Young do with a young starter who also happens to need a change of scenery? The Giants should find out.
At his end-of-season press conference Friday morning, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman bluntly told reporters that he would attempt to trade Sonny Gray, a former All-Star who posted a 4.90 ERA in his first full season with the Yankees and quickly became a target for their fans. It’s a call the Giants should make for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, Gray, just 28 years old, has not lost his talent. In 15 appearances on the road, he had a 3.17 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .226 average. He allowed just three homers in 71 innings on the road, striking out 78.
At Yankee Stadium, where pop-ups to right can turn into homers, Gray had a 6.98 ERA and gave up 11 homers in 59 1/3 innings. This is a man who simply needs a new ballpark, and there isn’t a better one for pitchers than AT&T Park.
At his peak in Oakland, where Young was his pitching coach, Gray was a five-WAR starter. Even in 2017, the year he was traded, he had an ERA+ of 122. A repeat of that season would have ranked him second on the 2018 Giants, behind Rodriguez.
Gray should be a buy-low target for plenty of teams, but the Giants have one big advantage here. Because of his past success, Gray is estimated to make $9.1 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors, which could price him out for some other teams, including the one playing across the Bay Bridge. For the Giants, that’s a drop in the bucket, and they could take on the full salary and then see what the Yankees want in return.
That part is unclear, but Yankees reporters didn’t seem to think the trade ask would be too high. According to Marc Carig of The Athletic, Cashman said, “It’s probably best to try this somewhere else” and made it clear that if he finds a trade partner, Gray is being moved. The Giants — who are interviewing Cashman’s former assistant GM (Kim Ng) and have a former Yankee (Brian Sabean) currently running their operations — would appear to be the perfect fit, giving Cashman the chance to move Gray to the other league, where he couldn’t come back to haunt the Yankees.
If he can find his old form, Gray could give the Giants a No. 2 or No. 3 starter on a one-year deal as they look to reload, setting the rotation and allowing the new front office to spend the rest of the offseason looking for bats. If he’s good and the team still isn’t, Gray would be a nice trade chip in July. And if it doesn’t work out in any respect, Gray would hit free agency next offseason, and the Giants wouldn’t be stuck with another long-term commitment to a starting pitcher.
Either way, this is a call they have to make.