Sandoval batting .333 after 365 days in majors

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Pablo Sandoval has quickly become one of my favorite players, because he looks like a beer-league softball slugger, swings at absolutely everything from both sides of the plate, never seems to shut up, can often be spotted dancing in the dugout, runs like he’s chasing a piece of cake, and already has a pair of great nicknames in “Kung Fu Panda” and “Fat Ichiro.” Oh, and he’s also pretty damn good.
Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News writes that “one year ago today the Giants had themselves a bouncing new baby Panda” when they called up Sandoval “and life hasn’t been the same since.” He’s hit .333/.373/.533 with 20 homers and 67 total extra-base hits in 149 games through 365 days as a big leaguer, and the 23-year-old is trying to become the first player since Tony Gwynn in 1984 to win the NL batting title in his first full season.
Sandoval has amazingly done all that damage despite drawing a grand total of 26 non-intentional walks in 601 plate appearances. For comparison, Adrian Gonzalez and Carlos Pena have both drawn more than 26 walks in a single month this season. Sandoval has swung at 60.7 percent of all the pitches he’s seen in the majors, which is the highest rate in baseball. For comparison, Luis Castillo is at the other end of the hacking spectrum at just 30.5 percent.
Naturally he leads the world by swinging at 46.9 percent of all pitches outside the strike zone and has taken a cut at over 80 percent of pitches inside the strike zone. And perhaps the most amazing stat of all is that the 5-foot-11, 250-pound galoot has somehow managed to beat out 18 infield hits to rank among the top 20 in baseball ahead of speedsters like Chone Figgins, Willy Taveras, Jason Bartlett, Nyjer Morgan, Johnny Damon, Jimmy Rollins, and Alexei Ramirez.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.