Gray might not deliver the Yankees a division title this year or next year or the year after that, but he gives them a better shot. Especially this year, in which the American League -- outside of the Houston Astros -- is so weak.
The Yankees have already acquired lefty Jaime Garcia from the Minnesota Twins. He is an upgrade over Caleb Smith or Luis Cessa in the fifth spot, but the Yankees should make themselves the undisputed favorites to win the sprint with the Boston Red Sox for the AL East crown.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman rebuilt the Yankees' trading depth last July with an eye on being able to shop in every aisle in future Julys. He now has all the cards. While Gray, 27, may not be an ace, he is pretty good. So Cashman should grab him next. Cashman is right to not include top prospects Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield in any deals. The up-and-coming Estevan Florial is someone Cashman is hesitant to let go as well, but someone who Cashman may have to part with. In an ideal Yankees world, Cashman should finish the deal around Jorge Mateo. If the A's are still unwilling, maybe you sweeten the pot a little and include Floria. Garcia has given Cashman leverage. Still, he should go get Gray.
The Yankees aren't a half-measure franchise. While they are not doing it the old George Steinbrenner way, Hal Steinbrenner seems to know when to step on the gas. He should do it with Gray.
Gray's history bears some red flags. But this just in: In 2017, with Tommy John surgery as common for pitchers as picking up a rosin bag, what starter is not an injury risk?
Gray began this year with a strained lat. His disappointing 2016 was in part because of a forearm strain, which can be an ominous sign for a pitcher. Still, he is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA. The Yankees would have six starters for five starts, which would allow them to protect veterans Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, as well as youngsters Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino. They would be stacked.
Gray is probably a No. 2 at best, but he is the guy who makes the most sense on the market. Yu Darvish is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Texas Rangers are not asking for just stretch-drive rental prices for their ace. Justin Verlander's numbers don't make enough sense as he is 34 with a 4.50 ERA and with $56 million guaranteed the next two years.
So Cashman and his good buddy Billy Beane are in a staredown. Gray is making just $3.575 million in 2017. He is not eligible for free agency until 2020. If he stays healthy, he will be part of the Yankees' rotation along with Severino, the rookie Montgomery and Tanaka (who can opt out after this year but is almost certainly pitching too poorly at the moment to dare do it). The Yankees could re-sign Sabathia for one year in the offseason and be set for 2018.
There are two months left in the 2017 season, and the Yankees are right in it. They already have turned their bullpen into a devastating force by acquiring David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, while subtracting Tyler Clippard. They upgraded their corner infield spots by picking up Todd Frazier. Garcia is on board. Now, it is Gray who should join the mix.
Cashman famously called the Red Sox, "the Golden State Warriors of baseball" this winter. If Cashman adds Gray, it may be his roster that is more prepared for the stretch run.