On this date three years ago, the Reds, Mariners and Yankees reached an agreement on a complicated deal. Not only was it an uncommon trade between three teams, the deal was only pushed across the finish line when the most prominent player involved agreed to a three-year contract extension with his new club.
As part of the January 21, 2019 agreement, the Reds landed Sony Gray. Cincinnati agreed to take a $7.5 million salary for the season and promised an additional $30.5 million through 2022. (The deal also included a $12.5 million club option for 2023.) The Reds were also relegated with a left-handed throw probability Sanmartin River from New York. In return, they sent the infringer Shedd Long Jr. to Seattle, who flipped their last draft in the second round, Josh Storrsto the Yankees.
Gray, the 2015 All-Star and AL Cy Young winner, was the obvious headline for the deal. After a generally solid run in Oakland, he was sent to the Yankees on the 2017 trade deadline. However, Gray didn’t do well during his extra year in the Bronx, averaging a 4.51 ERA/4.40 FIP across 195 2/3 innings. He has handled certain struggles at the confines of Yankee Stadium friendly striking, managing a 6.55 ERA in the home competitions during his time in the striped streaks.
The Reds set Gray as a target as they neared the end of a rebuild that landed them in the basement at NL Central for four consecutive seasons. They were rewarded for this decision, with Gray instantly changing things up in his new surroundings. He rolled 175 1/3 shots with a 2.87 ERA during his first season with the Reds, earning his second All-Star nod and some Cy Young votes in the process. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference tied Gray as the most valuable player on the team that year by Wins Above Replacement.
Gray’s first stellar season wasn’t enough to propel the Reds past the season, but Cincinnati qualified for an extended playoff the following year. His 56 innings off a 3.70 ERA ball in the short season wasn’t quite as impressive as his first-year numbers, but he was still an above-average strength that contributed to a decent team appearance from 31 to 29. The Reds did not play the playoffs over the course of an entire schedule. last year, but Gray put on another great show. The 32-year-old’s 4.19 ERA marked a step back a bit, but his 27% hit rate, 47.2% ball ratio and 3.85 SIERA suggest he may have been negatively affected by a poor defense behind him.
Cincinnati has not achieved the success the team had undoubtedly hoped for over the past three seasons. This isn’t any fault of Gray, though. Over 366 2/3 innings with the Reds, the Vanderbilt scored a 3.49 ERA/3.57 FIP, making the opposing hitters for the .208/.292/.345 streak slim. Buying at a low price after his feud with the Yankees proved to be a smart move for former President Dick Williams, General Manager Nick Krall, and the rest of the front office in Cincinnati.
It remains to be seen if Gray’s tenure with the Reds is over. It is still manageable for two seasons under the terms of the extension he signed at the time of the trade. The organization may be looking to cut payroll after the shutdown, and Gray may offer the best combination of recent productivity and availability in the trade and a 2022 salary (~$10.167 million) of anyone on the list.
And whether Gray is dealt for the third time or opens next season in Cincinnati, the deal is a win for the Reds later. In fact, of the three possibilities involved in the trade, Sanmartín is the only one left with the club that acquired it. He started his first two MLB games during the final week of last season and could be a deep start or long savior for Cincinnati this year.
The other two possibilities – Long and Stowers – were more respected than Sanmartín at the time of the trade. However, neither of them emerged as a long-term option in their new institutions. 412 billboard appearances over three years with Seattle. He did well as a rookie but struggled between 2020-21, dealing with frequent injuries around his right leg. The 26-year-old was dropped from the Mariners’ list of 40 players at the end of last season, elected as free agency in the minor league and has yet to sign elsewhere. Long characters to get another chance – even if only by convention of minors – and is small enough to have a real chance to turn things around, but it didn’t have that kind of effect in Seattle, no doubt their front office was hoping for.
In the meantime, Stowers hasn’t broken into majors yet. He spent two years in the New York farm system, then was traded to Rangers last April as part of the deal that sent Rougned . scent to the Bronx. The 24-year-old (25 next month) then hit .220/.311/.466 in 351 games in Double-A. He has not been added to the Texas 40-man roster after the season ends, and he will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft once the lockdown is over. As with Long, it’s too early to close records related to the Stowers’ career, but he will be available to the rest of the league for more than just an active spot on the roster in the coming months.