Orioles optimistic about re-signing Nate McLouth

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We heard a report earlier this week linking the Orioles to both Josh Hamilton and Cody Ross as potential options for left field next year, but the club is currently focused on keeping one of their surprising late-season contributors.

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles continue to pursue free agent outfielder Nate McLouth. The two sides have maintained dialogue since the 31-year-old hit the open market last week and two industry sources told Connolly yesterday that the Orioles are “still optimistic” about re-signing him.

McLouth’s future as a big leaguer was in doubt after he was released by the Pirates in late May, but he latched on with the Orioles just a few days later and was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk. He didn’t end up joining the big club until August, but he played a major role down the stretch, hitting .268/.342/.435 with seven home runs, 18 RBI, 12 stolen bases and a .777 OPS in 236 plate appearances. His hot-hitting continued during the postseason, as he batted .308 (8-for-26) with two home runs, five RBI and three stolen bases in five games.

There’s danger in putting too much stock in the small sample size of success, as McLouth could revert to the same player who batted .203/.312/.313 from 2010 to when he was released by the Pirates this year, but he has certainly played his way into another guaranteed major league contract.

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.