In 1995, the New York Yankees traded for a starting pitcher who helped propel the organization to a fantastic run. Can history repeat itself?
At this time last year, New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman did something that’s foreign to an organization that held the mantra, “championships or bust:” He waived the white flag.
For the first time since 1989, the Yankees were sellers at the trade deadline. Out went Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova, and in return came a bevy of prospects, including highly-regarded youngsters Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, amongst others.
It was quite clear the Yankees were officially on board with a youth movement — one that was over a decade in the making.
Whether it was over the winter or the dog days of summer, there have been a number of parallels between the 1995 New York Yankees and 2017 New York Yankees.
Both teams had young talent bursting at the seams, both in the minors and in the Bronx.
In 1995, Bernie Williams was growing into one of the game’s premier center fielders, both offensively and defensively. Youngsters Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Russ Davis made appearances in pinstripes and pitching prospects Sterling Hitchcock and Andy Pettitte were fixtures in the rotation.
In 2017, Aaron Judge has blossomed into one of baseball’s brightest young stars due to his likable personality and massive home runs. Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade have become fixtures on the roster and Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery — 23 and 24, respectively — make up two-fifths of the starting staff.
The similarities don’t stop there. In ’95, Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs and Paul O’Neill were positive veteran influences while Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia and Matt Holliday hold the same roles this year. 22 years ago, the Yankees longest winning streak was seven, their longest losing streak was eight. Through 104 games, the longest winning streak the Yankees have had is eight, their longest losing streak, seven.
And on July 31, the likeness was even furthered between both versions of the Bronx Bombers.
As the trade deadline was coming to its conclusion, the Yankees acquired Sonny Gray — arguably the best starting pitcher available — in exchange for three prospects: Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian. The hope is that Gray can come to New York, help stabilize the rotation and become a fixture in pinstripes for the short and long term.
On July 25, 1995, the Yankees needed an upgrade in their starting rotation. Team ace Jimmy Key tore his rotator cuff after five starts, leaving a massive hole atop the depth chart. After searching for someone to fill the void, the front office settled on David Cone, who, like Gray, was acquired for three prospects — Marty Janzen, Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon.
In an article full of similarities, there is a caveat: Sonny Gray is not David Cone.
Before making his way to the Big Apple, Cone was a nine-year veteran of the big leagues, with his resume including three All-Star appearances, two seasons of being MLB’s strikeout leader, a Cy Young Award in 1994 and two World Series rings.
Gray has only five years of service, one of which was dominant. In 2015, the right-hander sported a 2.73 ERA over 31 starts while having a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 169:59 in 208 innings pitched. Gray’s efforts landed him on the All-Star team while also having him finish third in the Cy Young voting process.
Cone was 32, Gray is 27. Cone was traded to the Yankees to be their bonafide ace while Gray won’t have that much pressure on his shoulders.
But no matter how you slice it, they’re hired guns.
Cone’s efforts will never go understated. Once he put on pinstripes, he went 9-2 with a 3.82 ERA. The transaction propelled the Yankees to their first playoff berth in 14 years — and even though the team ultimately came up short, Cone was the anchor of a rotation that went on to win four championships in five seasons.
The trade for Gray signifies that the Yankees are no longer rebuilding — they’re all in. After a hot start, the team has proven to be capable of competing with any ball club in the American League. As long as Gray pitches to his potential, he can help lead his new team to a deep postseason run.
Will Gray come close to doing what Cone did for the Yankees? No one can say for certain, but those are as lofty as expectations can get. But the similarities — both team-wise and trade-wise — are there.
And who knows? Maybe this move will kick start the next dynasty in the Bronx.