No one knows why Andre Ethier is playing center field tonight

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I wondered yesterday why manager Charlie Manuel would choose to start Andre Ethier in center field for tonight’s All-Star game despite his having zero experience there in the majors, particularly since NL right fielder Corey Hart has actually played several hundred innings as a big-league center fielder.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wondered the same thing and he actually asked both Ethier and Manuel about it. Turns out, neither of them really knows either.
First, here’s Ethier:

Wow. Center field? Am I playing center field? I heard rumors. I don’t even know the lineup. Last time I played center field would have to have been … in college, 2003. Hopefully, [Dodgers manager] Joe [Torre] doesn’t get any crazy ideas.

Now here’s Manuel (yes, Craig already highlighted this quote, but it’s clearly amazing enough to do twice)

The reason he’s playing center field is because when we did the fan voting and the player voting, we, uh, Hart had the … he was ahead of the outfielders. He has to start. He was supposed to start the game, and Ethier’s the one I chose to play center field because I remember he played there a lot. We do not have what they call a true center fielder right now. We have some on our roster … at the same time … that was the reason why he started in center field.

(Ethier’s teammate Rafael Furcal also had a great reaction to the news: “Oh, really? Oh my god.”)
I don’t want to be too hard on Manuel here, because he’s not the world’s most articulate public speaker and ultimately it doesn’t really matter, but as Hernandez pointed out that explanation makes zero sense. In fact, it’s backwards. Manuel says he chose Ethier to start in center field “because I remember he played there a lot.” In reality he’s never played there and Hart is the one who was a regular center fielder as recently as 2007.
Just something to remember the next time you assume the people involved put a lot of thought into these types of things.

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.