I’m writing mainly about the odds of a Sonny Gray deal but, first things first, here's why I really hope it happens: he'd solidify the rotation now, for the playoffs, and for 2018, when the rotation will be verrrry thin; his combination of young, cheap, and good makes him a better asset than any free agent starter would be; and he looks to cost less in prospects than lesser pitchers recently have. On that last point; any prospect package less than the blue-chip haul the Yankees got for Chapman or Miller last year is a steal. A 27 year-old top starter with two years of team control left is a more valuable asset than even a top closer with 0-1 years of control (like Chapman and Miller last year) -- yet it looks like the Yankees can land Gray for a weaker prospect package than they landed for Chapman or Miller last year.
But will they get Gray? Until today, I thought the Yankees were the front-runner to land Gray -- but with several teams in the chase, "front-runner" means maybe a 40% chance. But I’m doubling that to 80% after Morosi's report that Oakland would "prefer Florial over Frazier because of defense in CF." That's an odd preference! I see two possibilities -- and either makes me think a deal is really, really likely.
(1) Maybe: Beane genuinely prefers Florial? If so, I think the Yankees in a heartbeat give up a package of Florial and maybe two more good-not-elite prospects. Teams trading prospects often list their untouchables, and the Yankees consistently have named “Torres and Frazier” – but no others – as untouchable. Confirming that they had no untouchables beyond that top two is that they traded their #3 prospect (Rutherford) for a White Sox package that, even all together, isn’t as valuable as Gray. If they gave up their #3 (Rutherford) and #15-ish (Clarkin) prospects for less than Gray, I think they’d happily give up a better package, led by their #5 (Florial), for Gray.
(2) Probably: Beane is saving face by spinning a Florial package he expects? Bluntly: I don't buy any sentient lifeform actually wanting Florial over Frazier. More likely, Beane is saying that for spin -- which implies he thinks the deal is happening, so he needs good press for landing Florial. Beane is a competitive guy, and anyone trading a star for prospects needs to claim he got a great prospect haul. More likely than (a) Beane strangely preferring Florial over Frazier is (b) Beane failing to land Frazier, but still wanting to deal, leading him to claim that a Florial package is still a top-prospect package.
(3) Prediction: Gray+Alonso for (a) Florial, (b) Mateo, (c) either of the inconsistent but promising 100-MPH guys, Acevedo or Abreu, & (d) a fourth good, but non-top-10, prospect. That's a wild guess, but I suspect that the Yankees' cost of keeping Torres and Frazier is including four real prospects -- and that's still a deal, because it's a much lighter package than the less valuable Chapman and Miller each cost last year. Alonso wouldn’t be a huge addition, but he does add value for the reasons Derek's deep-dive post noted, plus his platoon splits: over several years, he’s had a mid-.700s OPS against righties, so he’d be useful to rotate with the righty (Todd Frazier) and switch-hitter who occasionally needs rest (Headley) currently swapping among 1B & 3B.
Punch line: They'll be a much better team in 2017, the playoffs, and 2018 with Gray -- and they'd be getting him for a cost that, though heavy, preserves their true elite prospects, and isn't crushing in light of the depth of the Yankee system.