What season is it?

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As I wait for the NL MVP to be announced — likely the only real news that will be had today — I find myself struggling with something:  when do we start calling 2010 “last season?”  When do we start calling 2011 “this season.”  More importantly, what do we call them now?

Let’s start easy: it’s probably safe to call 2010 “last season” now. The only possible issue with this will be when we talk about who just won the awards — I still think of Felix Hernandez as “this season’s Cy Young Award winner” — but that will end soon, and the award winners will be just as much a part of “last season” as Dallas Braden’s ridiculous references to the area code whence he came.

2011 is much harder.  My quick broaching of the topic on Twitter has made it pretty clear that people do not yet feel comfortable calling 2011 “this season.” Indeed, the consensus is that we’re in a dead zone when we can only have a “last season” and a “next season” and nothing in between.  This saddens me, because it just underscores how bereft of baseball we are.  What’s more, it’s not 100% accurate inasmuch as teams are assembling rosters as we speak, laying the important groundwork for 2011. Something is happening that part of me feels must be considered as a component of the active season.  Though the tree has shed its leaves and appears dead to the world, it still lives.

But my emotional needs aside, I’ll grant that 2011 is not yet “this season.”  But when does it become “this season?”

  • I will not be subject to the tyranny of the calendar. January 1st is a non-starter as far as I’m concerned, as it has no organic relationship to baseball, which has its own calendar that can be easily navigated without reference to the names of the months (“October” being the only possible exception).
  • Someone in the Twitterverse suggested Opening Day. This is far too late for me. We are way, way too invested in actual on-the-field activity before then.
  • Pitchers and catchers reporting, then?  It may be the majority position. It still feels too late for me, though. And it’s not like we’re sticking with it: “truck day” has become an increasingly big thing, and if we’re marking the departure of equipment, it must be significant.

I could go earlier than that, though. Sometime between now and early February is when the rhetorical calendar has to flip.  The sooner the better for me, as I dislike constructions such as “this upcoming season” or “the current offseason” or “that time, far off, when baseball begins anew and the long dreary winter has left us at last.”  Which comes up all the time, don’t you know.

Here’s my take:  I’m going to the Winter Meetings in a couple of weeks. When I’m down there, I’m going to perform a little pagan ceremony, the specifics of which will be between me, the beverage I am drinking and whoever happens to be within shouting distance.  When it’s over, 2011 will be referred to as “this season” on this blog.

Well, at least by me.  I’m guessing Gleeman, Pouliot, Short and Silva all feel differently about it.

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.