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For Yanks, it's deGrom or shades of Gray

July 7, 2018

One of the reasons, but not the only one, that the Yankees will be actively seeking a starting pitcher or two before the non-waiver Trade Deadline is because of the way one of the starters they already have, Sonny Gray, has pitched for them so far.Gray came to the Yankees

One of the reasons, but not the only one, that the Yankees will be actively seeking a starting pitcher or two before the non-waiver Trade Deadline is because of the way one of the starters they already have, Sonny Gray, has pitched for them so far.
Gray came to the Yankees from Oakland, and always looked pretty good to them out there. Only now he is in New York and Yankees fans act as if he is not only pitching as badly as he has lately, but also vandalizing Monument Park between starts.
Gray gave up five runs and six hits and threw two wild pitches in the two innings he pitched in the New York's 6-2 loss in Toronto Friday night, after starting a game against the Red Sox last Saturday night that the Yankees ended up losing, 11-1. His record is now 5-7 this season, with an earned run average of 5.85. Gray was 4-7 last season after the Yankees acquired him from the A's, even if he did get two starts in the postseason, one in which he pitched a solid five innings against the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, a game that Yankees won late.

The Yankees thought they were getting a top-of-the-rotation guy with Gray. They have gotten a bottom-of-the-rotation guy instead, one who might very well be on his way out of Aaron Boone's rotation. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman acquired Gray last summer because even then Cashman thought his team could make a run. This season, the Yanks aren't just looking to make a run, they are looking to win the team's first World Series in nine years, which feels like 90 in Yankees years.
But the problem they have, tied in to Sonny Gray's problems, is that a lot of the starting pitchers who may be available seem to be different versions of the same Sonny Gray the Yankees liked as much as they did when he was pitching for somebody else.

Different shades of Gray, basically, if not 50 of them.
There are left-handers and right-handers out there, some a lot older than Gray (he's 28) like Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ, some younger, like the Mets' Noah Syndergaard, formerly the pitching superhero known as Thor. But Syndergaard hasn't pitched since May 25 because of a tendon problem with the middle finger of his pitching hand, and make up your own joke on that one.
But there is only one starting pitcher out there -- unless the Giants decide to deal Madison Bumgarner -- who could change everything for the Yankees this October the way Justin Verlander changed everything for the Astros last October and that is a guy they don't have to worry about in New York because he's already pitching in New York:
Jacob deGrom.
In a season when there aren't enough good starting pitchers on bad teams, deGrom hasn't just been good for the Mets, who were so bad in the month of June in particular they nearly disappeared off baseball radar. He has been great. His ERA is now 1.79, which means better than all of the other top-gun aces in baseball. On the same night when the Blue Jays were lighting up Sonny Gray, deGrom was pitching eight more innings of one-run ball at Citi Field against the Rays. Of course the game was still 1-1 when he left the game -- welcome to Jake's world -- before Jose Bautista hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Will the Mets trade deGrom (who is still only 30)? No one knows that. Would they actually trade him to the Yankees, knowing that they might be trading the Yankees another World Series? Without coming right out and saying it, the Mets have made it clear that they would consider being a trading partner with the Yankees, but only if the Yankees paid more than anybody else, for either deGrom or Syndergaard.
Still: The Yankees know that deGrom is the guy who checks more boxes for them than somebody like Bumgarner would, because deGrom is the best guy out there, by a lot. He doesn't have Verlander's full resume. But he is five years younger, is a dazzling talent in his prime, is pitching better than he ever has. And deGrom has been handed the ball in October and delivered; he has a 3-1 postseason record with an ERA of 2.88. Now the Yankees and everybody else looking for pitching waits to see if they will even get the chance to overwhelm the Mets with goodies.

"We're not out there actively looking to move Jacob or Noah by any stretch," John Ricco, the first among equals of those running baseball operations for the Mets with Sandy Alderson once again fighting cancer, said Friday night.
The Yankees know what it was like for them to have to go up against Verlander in the ALCS. They were a win away from the World Series last season before Verlander slam dunked them in Game 6, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers did the same in Game 7 before the Astros went on to win the World Series.
The Yankees want what the Astros have, they want to stay out of an AL Wild Card game and they want the World Series back. They want their own Verlander, and don't have to look far, because the guy's pitching in the next borough over. There are a lot of Trade Deadline dramas. The biggest involves Jacob deGrom. No gray area with him, none.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for He also writes for the New York Daily News.