The Yankees are obtaining a lefty and leverage.
The Yankees and Twins were on the verge of finalizing a deal Sunday morning that would send southpaw Jamie Garcia to New York in exchange for a pair of pitchers, 21-year-old right-hander Zack Littel and 26-year-old lefty Dietrich Enns. The Twins also will be sending some money to the Yankees to complete the trade.
This does not dull the Yanks’ desire to obtain Sonny Gray from Oakland. It does give the Yankees a starter to help them better compete this year even without Gray, which would be a signal to the A’s that they would not budge from their offer for the righty.
There was a sense Saturday night that the A’s and Yankees were digesting a latest round of information, and that a deal could come Sunday. But one executive who has been involved in Gray talks said he believed the Yanks were holding firm in what they were willing to offer because they were unsure if any other team was seriously bidding on the righty. Garcia would enable the Yankees to feel better about holding firm.
The Astros, Braves, Brewers, Dodgers and perhaps Cubs were the other teams believed most serious about Gray, though as Saturday progressed there was a growing belief that the Yankees were the strong favorites.
The A’s announced that Gray will not make his scheduled start Sunday and will be pushed to Monday night after the deadline, if he is still in their uniform. At this point, there was little to gain in letting Gray start and lots to lose, especially if he incurred an injury.
For their leverage, A’s officials have pointed out that Gray is under control through the 2019 season and, thus, if they do not receive what they believe is a fair return, they would simply hold onto him now and market him again in the offseason.
However, the broad sentiment outside of the A’s front office was explained by one NL official, who said in a text: “He’s definitely getting moved. The A’s would be CRAZY to hold him given how well he’s pitching.”
Indeed, there might never be another point at which Gray’s performance and health plus industry need align this well.
Gray, who has been on the DL in each of the past two seasons, has a 1.37 ERA in his past six starts and has held opposing hitters to a .486 OPS.
For all the concerns about their rotation, Yankees starters actually entering the weekend with the fourth-best ERA (4.13) in the AL and were particularly encouraged by Masahiro Tanaka’s performance Friday. But the Yanks also know they are currently plugging the fifth spot with Caleb Smith, will be pushing the young arms of Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino in a pennant race, and consistently worrying about the health of Tanaka and CC Sabathia.
For the third time in the last sixth game – and second time in Smith’s two career starts – Joe Girardi pulled a starter Saturday earlier than he would have prior to the Yanks’ addition of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson. But even with a deeper bullpen and the ability to expand the staff come Sept. 1, can the Yanks really afford to have short starts so frequently?
Garcia would be viewed as an upgrade on Smith. Garcia was traded last Monday from the Braves to the Twins, whose continuing plummet in the standing convinced them to pivot and make the veteran available again. He is 5-7 with a 4.29 ERA and has worked at least six innings in 15 of 19 starts.
He is not the kind of starter the Yankees would comfortably start in a playoff series. Plus, he is a free agent after this season, so he doesn’t fit the Yankee goal of also finding help for future rotations.
Gray would both be a playoff starter and helpful to Yankee rotations in 2018-19.
So, even with the Garcia deal done, the Yanks will still be pursuing Gray – just with more leverage.