Mike Lowell is "on a mission"

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Thumbnail image for Mike Lowell headshot.jpgIf I had any skills I’d create some sort of interactive bingo card for the right-hand margin on which we’d put chips every time a player is reported this spring to (a) be in the best shape of his life; (b) be working on a new pitch that he thinks will make the difference; (c) have added some muscle to help his stamina; (d) have leaned up to increase his flexibility, etc.

Don’t get me wrong — I love these stories, if for no other reason than once they start appearing it means that baseball is right around the corner.  And of course, they speak to that eternal spring optimism that makes baseball the wonderful thing that it is. But are they meaningful? Not particularly.   This morning Rod Bradford has the latest entry in this eternal game. It’s about Mike Lowell, whose agent says that “this year he has been on a mission,” and that he’s been working out four or five times a week.

I like Mike Lowell so I hope that’s true. But at the same time, I’m assuming that he and the Red Sox have a pretty well-orchestrated plan to talk up how ready he is for the season, how quickly he’s healing and all of that. Indeed, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear something from the Sox soon talking about how, you know, they may just even keep him and play him a lot he’s so darn healthy.

After all, if they don’t, how else are they going to sucker someone into trading for him?

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.