When Mets fans heard that Oliver Perez was getting rocked in the Mexican Winter League, they were cautiously optimistic that it would cause the team to finally part ways with the guy. I mean, if you can’t make it in Culiacan,* how are you supposed to handle the Big Apple?
But now it seems that things aren’t so cut and dry. Perez has thrown 10 consecutive scoreless innings and a source tells Adam Rubin that Perez is touching the low 90s on the radar gun:
“Early velocities were 87-89, occasional 90 — all out of the pen. Starting velocities have the consistent 88, but spikes are higher and more common — 91s and occasional 92s.”
I’ll believe that Perez is useful when I see it (could that be in k.p.h.?), but a successful conclusion to his winter league season would certainly make for a fun Mets spring training, no?
*Culiacan: where dreams go to die. It was 1991, and a middleweight boxer from my hometown of Beckley, West Virginia by the name of Tommy Small was knocking guys out all over Appalachia. Occasionally he made it to the big venues like Satchmo’s Night Club in Akron. That spring he stood at a gaudy 23-3 record and was ready for the big time. He got his shot: a fight with Julio Cesar Chavez. The champ. A man who, around that time, was considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The location: Culiacan.
It was short-lived excitement. Chavez made minced meat out of Small who, in reality, was merely a glorified sparring partner for the champ. My boss — who had been drinking tequila from the Wednesday he arrived until the time he called in with his last update from the fight — portrayed it was an epic battle, in which “our local boy may have lost, but he got the champ’s attention.” My guess is that he didn’t even get the champ to sweat, but it was probably the greatest moment in Beckley, West Virginia boxing history.
Well, unless you count the time Mr. T. was the referee for the Tough Man Competition at the Raleigh County Armory. That was pretty bitchin’ actually. There was foxy boxing and everything.
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.