NEW YORK - Adding Sonny Gray to a rotation already improved by the offseason acquisitions of Tanner Roark and Alex Wood has the Cincinnati Reds thinking about their first NL Central title since 2012.
“I think we have a group of guys that can hold their own with anybody in this division. I really do,” president of baseball operations Dick Williams said Monday after finalizing a trade with the New York Yankees for Gray. I know our guys feel a sense of confidence.”
Gray’s unsuccessful stretch in New York ended when the Yankees traded the pitcher after the 29-year-old right-hander agreed to a contract with the Reds that added $30.5 million from 2020-22 and includes a 2023 club option.
New York received infield prospect Shed Long and a high pick in this year’s amateur draft, then flipped Long to Seattle for 21-year-old outfielder Josh Stowers. The Yankees sent the Reds left-hander Reiver Sanmartin.
Derek Johnson, the new Reds pitching coach for manager David Bell, was Vanderbilt’s pitching coach when Gray played for the Commodores from 2009-12. Johnson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, Gray’s offseason home, and they keep in touch.
“It’s a guy who’s really talented and a guy who I think’s right in the middle of his prime and also a hungry guy,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the thing that we’re all counting on. I know what kind of competitor Sonny is and I know that last year didn’t sit well with him at all and he’s going to be out to try to prove something not only to other people but obviously to himself, as well.”
After finishing last in the NL Central at 67-95, the Reds acquired Roark from Washington and Wood from the Los Angeles Dodgers, joining a rotation that includes Anthony DeSclafani and Luis Castillo.
“It’s the best rotation we’ve had in five years,” general manager Nick Krall said. “It makes you feel better about where you are.”
Cincinnati and New York agreed to a deal Friday, pending a window for Gray to reach a long-term deal. Gray and the Yankees settled on a $7.5 million, one-year contract on Jan. 11 that avoided salary arbitration. He had been eligible for free agency after this season, and his new deal raises his guarantee to $38 million over four seasons.
Gray had a physical Monday in Goodyear, Arizona, where the Reds hold spring training, while his agent, Bo McKinnis, worked out the contract with Krall. For Williams, the long-term deal was key.
“We always wanted to add three starters if we could do so economically,” he said. “We didn’t want to be in a position where all three starters would be becoming free agents next year.”
Gray was 15-16 with a 4.52 ERA overall for New York, which acquired him from Oakland in July 2017.