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A look at what may have been: The Braves and Sonny Gray

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According to Jeff Passan, the Braves were making “traction” on a three-team deal that would’ve seen them get Sonny Gray. Would this be a move that would have been worth it for Atlanta?

MLB: MAR 26 Yankees at Braves Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The calendar has switched pages from 2018 to 2019 and apparently the arrival of the new year has coincided with the arrival of new rumors as well. Things have been a bit slow for a couple of weeks now and honestly, they’re still slow. We still don’t really know exactly who the Braves are after when it comes to free agency and trades, but we may have some semblance of an idea after the latest (and first at his new internet home) article from Jeff Passan of ESPN.com.

According to Passan, the Braves were engaged in trade talks with both the Rangers and Yankees. In this now-theoretical three-team deal, the Yankees would have gotten Jurickson Profar, the Rangers would have gotten a prospect (likely from Atlanta) and the Braves would have gotten Sonny Gray.

Obviously those trade talks are likely dead since Profar is now a member of the Oakland Athletics since the Rangers decided to work on a three-team trade with the A’s and the Rays instead of the Braves and Yankees. Still, it’s definitely interesting to think about what could have been had the initial deal that Jeff Passan was talking about would have gone through.

When it comes to Sonny Gray, this would not be a case of a pitcher moving to the National League and improving just by that factor alone. During his only full season with the Yankees, he had an ERA of 6.98 and a FIP of 5.98 at Yankee Stadium. According to ESPN, the bandbox in the Bronx had a park factor of 1.126 in 2018, which was good for being the sixth-most hitter friendly ballpark in all of baseball in 2019. Guess which ballpark came in seventh place according to ESPN’s Park Factors?

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Yep. ESPN’s Park Factor rating had SunTrust Park at 1.120, which isn’t far behind their rating for Yankee Stadium at all. Granted, any pitcher would enjoy a benefit from going from a ballpark where a 320 foot pop fly to either side of the field is a home run but I don’t think that this would be the case for Sonny Gray. He had an absolute whale of a time trying to deal with right-handed hitters at Yankee Stadium in 2018 as they hit .350/.431/.581 against him and had a HR/FB percentage of 20 percent as well.

Again, the obvious hope would be that Sonny Gray would benefit from a slightly bigger ballpark and having a good defense behind him as well. You also have to consider that Gray would’ve had a big incentive to have a good year in 2019 since he’d be eligible for free agency next offseason. Money is always an incredible motivator and maybe that would/will give Gray a boost for next season.

Passan and Sarah Langs both mentioned that Sonny Gray would be a “classic change-of-scenery case.” With that being said, you probably wouldn’t be expecting Gray in his age-29 season to re-emerge as the front-end rotation guy that he was for a couple of seasons in Oakland. He would definitely fit nicely into Atlanta’s rotation at this point, but you have to wonder what the price would have been in order to bring in someone who is clearly a lower-to-mid level rotation pitcher at this point in his career.

That brings us to what the Rangers would have received in the deal, which is a prospect. You probably have to assume that Atlanta would be the team kicking in the prospect here since their farm system is still the stronger one when compared to the Yankees. Still, you have to figure that Sonny Gray is not going to be worth a top prospect and that may have been where this deal hit the snag that sent this thing from New York and Atlanta to Oakland and Tampa. The Braves have already made it clear that they are willing to just hang on to their prospects and not just deal them out all “willy-nilly” for just anybody.

While Sonny Gray would be a decent addition to the rotation, I wouldn’t say that it would be an addition that the Braves need to make a big dip into their prospect pool for. It would’ve been intersting to see this trade happen but I don’t think that it’s the end of the world that the Braves, Yankees and Rangers all decided to explore other avenues instead.

A move is very likely going to happen eventually, so we’ll continue to have to be patient as we enter into 2019 and the Braves hopefully continue to explore ways to improve the squad for next season.