Last year at this time, the New York Yankees were looking toward the future.
Turns out, that future arrived pretty fast.
In an aggressive move designed to boost their starting rotation for an unexpected playoff run, the Yankees acquired pitcher Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics for three minor league prospects on Monday.
"This team has shown it's got the ability to allow us to push a lot of these chips in the middle of the table and recognize 2017 has a chance to be special," general manager Brian Cashman said. "We're trying to go from good to great."
Oakland received Jorge Mateo, a top shortstop-outfielder prospect at Double-A; right-hander James Kaprielian, the 16th overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on April 18; and Dustin Fowler, an outfielder who ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee in the first inning of his major league debut on June 29, ending his season. New York also receives $1.5 million in international signing bonus allocation from the A's.
In the works for weeks, the deal was announced less than an hour before the 4 p.m. EDT deadline for making trades without waivers.
"Most of our serious conversations were with the Yankees," Athletics executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said in Oakland, California. "We're in last place, so we needed to do something. Sonny was a great player for us, but at this point we need a lot of great players. There's a talent deficit that exists right now, and the way to acquire multiple good players is to trade some of the good players you currently have."
A 27-year-old right-hander who has been slowed by injuries, Gray is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts this season and 4-2 with a 1.37 ERA in his last six outings. He makes $3,575,000 and is not eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season.
Gray was an All-Star in 2015, when he won 14 games for the second consecutive season and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting.
"I think we've definitely improved ourselves," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "When I look at ownership and the front office, they've given us an opportunity to do something special here. Now we have to go out and do it."
Last season, the scuffling Yankees stockpiled prospects at the trade deadline by dealing away veteran stars Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran.
But with the quick emergence of young sluggers Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and others, the Yankees entered Monday with a half-game lead in the AL East over rival Boston. New York missed the playoffs last year and has not won a postseason series since 2012.
So to get Gray and several other big league pieces recently, Cashman dipped into one of baseball's deepest farm systems.
"The last few years here were disappointing," outfielder Brett Gardner said. "Our goal is to win the division. The wild-card thing isn't good enough."
Gray slots into the middle of a rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and veteran Jaime Garcia, acquired Sunday from Minnesota. Rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery is 7-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 starts but has fallen off lately and could be the odd man out.
Girardi said no decision had been made yet, but the club plans to stick with a five-man rotation. Cashman acknowledged Gray and Garcia were obtained to be starting pitchers.
Girardi said Gray is likely to make his Yankees debut early on the team's next road trip, which begins Thursday night in Cleveland.
"I think everybody here was pretty ecstatic to have another No. 1 pitcher coming here," said new third baseman Todd Frazier, acquired July 18 from the Chicago White Sox along with relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.
Up in Boston, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was asked about New York's latest move and had some fun with a preseason comment by Cashman, who compared the Red Sox to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors after Boston acquired ace pitcher Chris Sale during the offseason.
"I think that Brian has made them the Golden State Warriors and we're the significant underdogs," Dombrowski said. "Like he said earlier in the year, that he didn't know how the Red Sox would lose a game, I think it'll be the same: I don't know how they'll lose a game right now."
Gray missed his scheduled opening-day starts each of the past two seasons, with food poisoning last year and because of a lat strain that caused a trip to the disabled list at the start of this season. He was 5-11 in 2016.
Gray worked with a personal trainer for the first time this past offseason and appreciated the guidance through his regular arm care and maintenance routine.
"I know that he's somebody that can slide into any rotation and automatically make the team better," Gardner said. "I think he's going to be a big boost for us."
Gray was on the disabled list from May 21 to June 4 last year with a strain in his upper back, then went back on the DL again with a strained right forearm. After getting hurt Aug. 6, the 27-year-old Gray didn't pitch again until one inning of relief Sept. 28 at the Los Angeles Angels.
Gray had been scheduled to start for the A's on Monday night against San Francisco. As the trade deadline approached, the Athletics pushed back his start a couple of days.
"The marathon's winding down and it's time to sprint to the finish line, and so we've done everything we possibly can to date to continue to excel," Cashman said.