Blue Jays: What to think of the Sonny Gray for Aledmys Díaz idea

Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith suggested yesterday on Twitter that the Blue Jays should look at including shortstop Aledmys Díaz in a trade for Yankees starter Sonny Gray.

New York Post’s and MLB Network’s insider, Paul Sherman, reported that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will undergo Tommy John Surgery and will, therefore, miss at the very least a big part of the 2019 season. The Yankees are now in need of some infield depth which is why the suggestion of an Aledmys Diaz for Sonny Gray deal could make sense for both the Yankees and the Blue Jays.

Gray is coming off a bad year with the New York Yankees. His 4.90 ERA in 130 innings (23 starts) isn’t particularly enticing but his career numbers and potential make him an interesting pitcher to acquire. Adding on to that, pitching is the main need this offseason for the Blue Jays which is why a trade for Sonny Gray, who the Yankees could eventually shop this winter, isn’t a crazy idea.

What makes this deal hard to envision is the years of control left on both players. Díaz, 28, has four years of control left and enters arbitration for the 2020 season. Gray, on the other hand, is entering his last season under team control and is entering free agency at the end of the 2019 campaign. Therefore, it comes down to one question: Four years of Aledmys Diaz for one year of Sonny Gray? The answer that comes to mind straight away is a resounding “no”. However, it’s worth to have a deeper look at why such a deal can make sense for the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays now have an extraordinary middle of the infield depth, which is why trading Díaz, whose value is at a good point right now after his fine season, can be a good idea. Suppose the Blue Jays make the deal and Diaz becomes a Yankee. The team is left with:

  • Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who got the majority of playing time at shortstop the last month of the season.
  • Brandon Drury, who plays mostly second or third base but can also play shortstop.
  • Richard Ureña, who can play around the infield and showed some good things with the team in September.
  • Troy Tulowitzki, the veteran shortstop who is making $20 million in 2019 and is hopeful of being the 2019 Blue Jays everyday shortstop.
  • Other: Devon Travis, although he’s a pure second baseman and doesn’t provide much versatility. Top prospect Bo Bichette, who might very well make the jump to the big leagues this coming season. Yangervis Solarte, whose future with the Blue Jays remains unknown.

It’s clear that, by trading away Díaz, Ross Atkins will not have to look for another shortstop as the Blue Jays have good options to cover the position, especially with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. who seems like the favorite to be the opening day shortstop no matter what happens in the offseason.

Another argument in favor of trading Díaz for Gray is that the Cuban shortstop is coming off a fine year which has brought his value to a point where the Blue Jays could look to capitalize on a return. Capitalizing is getting Sonny Gray? It’s a question you might be asking yourself right now. The answer to that will differ depending on who you ask, but here are the arguments why one year of Sonny Gray is worth it.

The 28-year-old right-handed starter has a career ERA of 3.66 in 146 career starts with a winning record of 59-52 between the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees. Sure, his 2018 numbers aren’t very good, but he has shown in previous years he can be an ‘ace’ and could be an exceptional trade chip for the Blue Jays at the trade deadline if things do not go well for the team the first few months of the season, as expected.

His 4.17 FIP (fielding independent pitching) shows he actually pitched better than what his 4.90 ERA suggests. He also had a decent 2nd half of the season pitching to a solid 3.63 ERA in 39.2 innings (five starts, seven relief appearances). His SO/9 has remained at 8.5 for the second year in a row, which suggests his stuff was still there. He also improved his HR/9 from 1.1 to 1.0, which is always a good sign when pitching in the AL East. One of the problems for Gray was his control as his BB/9 increased up to 3.9 compared to 3.2 in 2017.

The Blue Jays will most probably add a starting pitcher this offseason and Sonny Gray wouldn’t look bad in the Blue Jays rotation. Him, alongside Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Borucki, and either Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, or Sam Gaviglio would be a young rotation with tremendous potential.