Barry Zito and Bruce Bochy have closed-door meeting to discuss release rumor

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I wrote this morning about Bruce Jenkins’ column in the San Francisco Chronicle, which suggested that the Giants are considering releasing Barry Zito and eating the $65 million remaining on his contract.

The whole thing seemed far-fetched to me and the logic Jenkins employed appeared to be particularly lacking, with the goal seemingly being to stir up some controversy.

Zito apparently read the column too, as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the veteran left-hander had a closed-door meeting with manager Bruce Bochy to discuss what Jenkins had written, including several criticisms from unnamed sources.

Here’s what Zito told Baggarly (try not to be confused by the presence of two Bruces):

Bruce [Bochy] called me in, first thing. He just said, “This is the first we’ve heard of this.”

I thought Bruce [Jenkins] and I had a good relationship. At the end of the day, we don’t all wear the same uniform. The thing about being out of shape, I have no idea who his sources are. Nobody I’ve talked to–trainers, strength coaches, the coaching staff–they’ve never heard anything about that. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the nature of the business.

I suppose this means Jenkins accomplished his mission of stirring the pot around Zito, but I still don’t see why the Giants would possibly release a pitcher who has a 4.09 ERA during the past two seasons. He’s overpaid, but cutting him won’t change that and none of their other rotation options figure to be any better. Baggarly agrees, writing that “it’s hard to fathom the Giants really eating the rest of Zito’s salary.”

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.