Finding a Match for Sonny Gray: Reds and Athletics


Yankees’ RHP Sonny Gray has found himself on the trade block after a sub-par showing in the 2018 season. Gray pitched to a staggering 4.90 ERA and walked nearly 4 batters / 9 IP. His WHIP in 2018 was the highest in his career: 1.50. In other words, he conceded an avg. of 3 baserunners for every 2 IP.

Sonny was a much more effective pitcher in 2017 because his sinker generated more swings and misses and fewer hits…

2017 Sinker SwStr%: 12.0%

vs

2018 Sinker SwStr%: 6.4%

and

2017 Sinker AVG Against: .244

2018 Sinker AVG Against: .270

Let’s see how much he threw each pitch in 2018, compared to 2017…

2017

FA: 30.6%

SI: 33.2%

CU: 14.1%

SL: 15.8%

vs

2018

FA: 25.7%

SI: 29.8%

CU: 23.7%

SL: 15.9%

His pitch mix didn’t change all that much. Heading into 2019, I’d like to see Sonny Gray throw more off-speed pitches and dial down on the fastball and sinker. His curveball (14.5%) and slider (18.2%) both induced an above average # of swings and misses, while his fastball (6.9%) and sinker (6.4%) did quite the opposite.

While many folks are tough on Gray and skeptical of his chances of bouncing back this season, I am buying his potential. Here are numerous reasons why:

  • Still on 29 yrs old
  • Velocity increasing
  • Overall, he gets a decent amount of whiffs (10.1% SwStr)
  • Gets plenty of GBs (50.0%)
  • 4.17 FIP and 4.10 xFIP
  • Two above average pitches (curveball and slider)

In order to most accurately gauge Sonny Gray’s value, we first need to estimate how many WAR he will be worth in 2019 using the following formula (excludes rookie season)…

[(2014 WAR 3.1 * 0.3) + (2015 WAR 3.8 * 0.25) + (2016 WAR 0.7 * 0.2) + (2017 WAR 2.8 * 0.15) + (2018 WAR 1.7 * 0.1)] = 0.93 + 0.95 + 0.14 + 0.42 + 0.17 = 2.4 WAR

We will integrate Fangraphs’ new Update to Prospect Valuation system in order to most precisely formulate realistic compensation that the Reds and Athletics could conceivably part with (for Sonny Gray). 

results are presented in present-day WAR and translated to a rough dollar figure based on $9 million as the cost of a win on the free-agent market. Keep in mind that the dollar figure isn’t a direct value, but rather equivalent value of a prospect relative to the free-agent market. Part of the reason prospects have such tremendous value is due to the suppressed salaries permitted by the CBA until a player has reached six years of service time. By translating the WAR figure into a monetary value, we can compare the value of prospects with the values of major-league players and their contracts. These values likely roughly approximate what an individual player might get as a signing bonus if he were declared a free agent and teams could only provide a signing bonus instead of a long-term contract.

Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards

In other words, Fangraphs assigned a monetary value for all minor league prospects (based on how former prospects belonging to that tier / rank performed during the first 9 seasons of their baseball career [“including the season in which a prospect was ranked”]). These values are comparable to current major leaguers (calculated through incorporating WAR [$9 million / 1 WAR] and the cost of the player’s contract). 

The calculations for Sonny Gray’s surplus monetary value can be seen below…

(2.4 WAR projection [per Steamer] for 2019 * $9 million / 1 WAR) – $7.5 million (salary for 2019) = $21.6 million – $7.5 million = $14.1 million in surplus value

Here are some packages Yanks could net in return for Gray…

Reds

CF Jose Siri (45+ FV; $8 million) and CF Mike Siani (45 FV; $6 million) for RHP Sonny Gray ($14.1 million)

In 2018, Jose Siri struggled; he hit .229 in 283 PAs at AA, also smashing 12 HRs and stealing 14 bases. Strikeouts are a big issue for Jose, who struck out virtually 1/3 of the time. Siri will presumably stick in CF, where he is best suited (considering his plus speed and arm strength). Siri was just one year removed from stealing nearly 50 bases and slugging 24 HRs in 552 A PAs. His high upside could appeal to the Yankees front office.

Mike Siani is another above average defensive CF. He was drafted early in the 4th round of the 2018 June Amateur Draft. In 205 rookie ball PAs, Siani hit for a .288 AVG and stike 6 bases. He also added 2 HRs and only struck out 17.1% of the time. While his sample size is small, it appears Siani could be a starting CF in the making.

Athletics

LF Lazaro Armenteros (45 FV; $6 million), CF Austin Beck (45 FV; $6 million), and [($2.1 million in cash) OR (one of Oakland’s 40 FV position players: CF Jameson Hannah, RF Greg Deichmann, 2B Marcos Brito, SS Alexander Campos, or 2B Kevin Merrell) for RHP Sonny Gray ($14.1 million)

19-year-old Lazaro Armenteros broke out in 2018. He hit for a .277 AVG and slugged 8 HRs. Armenteros has plus speed (8 SB in 79 games) and a good eye (10.6% BB rate). Two concerns I have are his propensity to strike out (33.8% K rate) and his extremely high BABIP (.427).

Austin Beck, a former 1st round pick (2016), had a decent season in 2018. He had a .296 AVG and 8 SBs. His lack of patience (5.6% BB rate) and power (2 HRs) are alarming though. His floor is that of a 4th outfielder but if he can develop more power, he could start in CF.

Jameson Hannah is another outfielder who offer little in terms of power (1 HR in around 100 PAs); however, he hit .279 and stole 6 bags. His most probable outcome is also that of a 4th outfielder.

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