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Meager Returns for Sonny Gray

I was very excited that the Yankees might be able to get a decent return for Sonny Gray. Yes, Sonny was awful in the Bronx last year (5.10 xFIP, 6.83 K/9 5.31 BB/9). But his stats away from the stadium were ace-like (3.27 xFIP, 9.89 K/9, 2.79 BB/9). For those of you who are not familiar with xFIP, it is basically ERA with defense, park effects and luck stripped out. That 3.27 xFIP would have placed Gray 8th in the AL among starters (Severino had a 3.10 xFIP last year). A guy like that is worth 3-4 wins a year over a replacement pitcher and $27-$36 million per year. Sonny will be paid $7.5 million in 2019 so that’s excess value of $20-$30 million.

I guess this is what Cashman tried to tell the rest of the league and it didn’t work out as well as I hoped. Cincinnati was even able to sign Gray for $10 million a year over 3 years so the market for him was not exactly robust. Frankly, I was surprised that Gray agreed to the extension. If he has a bounce back year in Cincinnati, he’s worth a lot more than that.

I like the supplemental draft pick which I read somewhere is worth $10 million.

I’m less than excited about Josh Stowers. At first blush, he looks great. In 2018, he walked 15.2% of the time and struck out 23.4% of the time. That was good for a .260 average and .380 on base percentage. He turned 33.6% of his balls in play into hits which is close to sustainable for a guy with his speed. His isolated power was nice for a 21 year old (.150). Isolated power is slugging percentage less average. He hit 5 home runs in only 244 plate appearances. All in all, a performance like that, if you can translate it to the bigs as a center fielder, is fantastic. His wOBA was .366 which would have placed him 5th among qualifying center fielders in 2018 (just ahead of Aaron Hicks at .360). wOBA is weighted on base average and is frequently used as a single statistic measure of offensive effectiveness.

So what’s my beef? He did this all at Everett in the Class A Short Season League (the equivalent of the Staten Island Yankees). He’s a long way from the bigs. I look at every level of the minors as a risk that the player won’t be able to handle the increased level of competition. And Stowers has 4 more levels of minors before he gets to the bigs (low A, high A, AA and AAA). He has never even played full season ball. Every level of the minors has better pitchers. Pitchers with better offspeed stuff. Pitchers with better control. And Stowers is already 21 and will be 22 when the season starts. He should be destroying Short Season Ball pitching.

If Stowers progresses at a level a year, he’ll hit the bigs at the age of 26 or 27. Is it possible that Stowers can keep up his performance as he works his way through the minors? Sure. Could he get to the bigs sooner than his age 26 season? Of course he could, But there are a ton of risks associated with this prospect and higher level prospects have a lot fewer risks than guys in short season ball. I would have hoped that Cashman could have either gotten a younger prospect at a low level or a 21 year old at High A or AA.

I’m hope that Cashman has access to some incredibly predictive analytics that show that Stowers is a good bet. But for now, color me unimpressed with the return on this deal.


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