Tag: Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation Surrounding Athletics SP

Sonny Gray is coming off a disastrous 2016 season, though that’s not stopping the Oakland Athletics right-hander from generating interest on the trade market.  

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Gray on Braves’ Radar

Tuesday, Nov. 15

According to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Atlanta Braves have looked at Gray as a potential trade option to bolster their starting rotation. 

Gray’s trade value will likely never be lower. He posted career lows in ERA (5.69), WHIP (1.50), strikeouts per nine innings (7.2), home runs allowed per nine innings (1.4) and hits allowed per nine innings (10.2) in 2016, per Baseball-Reference.com

The 27-year-old essentially missed the last two months of the season because of a forearm issue. He made one appearance after August 6, tossing one scoreless inning in relief against the Los Angeles Angels on September 28. 

It’s easy to figure out why other teams would be interested in Gray. While his value took a huge hit in 2016, he’s still one year removed from finishing third in American League Cy Young voting and is under team control through 2019. 

A team like the Braves, who are still in rebuilding mode but trying to field a respectable squad to open their new stadium in 2017, would be betting on a bounce-back season from Gray. 

The A’s, however, don’t have incentive to move Gray coming off a bad season because he’s under control for multiple years. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors estimated the All-Star will get $3.7 million in arbitration in 2017, a manageable salary for a small-market team. 

Unless A’s general manager David Forst thinks Gray is damaged goods and wants to strike while it’s still possible to ask for a decent return, it will likely take a big package from any interested team to pry him away from the Bay Area. 

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Sonny Gray Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Athletics SP

Following a disappointing 2016 campaign, the Oakland Athletics are reportedly willing to listen to offers for starting pitcher Sonny Gray.

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Latest on Gray’s Future with Athletics

Friday, Nov. 11

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the A’s aren’t actively shopping Gray but are open to a deal if the right one presents itself.

After finishing third in the 2015 American League Cy Young Award voting, Gray experienced a huge drop-off in 2016.

The 27-year-old righty went just 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 117 innings. He was also limited to 22 starts due to a pair of stints on the disabled list with a strained trapezius and a strained right forearm.

Gray enjoyed a career year in 2015 with a 14-7 record, 2.73 ERA and a personal-best 1.08 WHIP, but he was nowhere close to the same pitcher last season.

The fall from grace was surprising since Gray went 33-20 with an impressive 2.88 ERA in his first three MLB campaigns.

Gray was 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA over his first four starts of the season, but the wheels came off after that. However, if injuries were primarily responsible for that, and he is now healthy, he is in position to bounce back in 2017 and beyond.

Since Gray is arbitration-eligible for the next three years, per Spotrac, there isn’t a ton of incentive for the Athletics to trade him.

The A’s have some major question marks in their starting rotation aside from Gray, although youngsters Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton showed flashes of brilliance last season.

A package of high-quality prospects could entice an Oakland team that is rebuilding, but following Gray’s awful season, it seems unlikely that fair value will be offered in return.


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Sonny Gray Is the Wild Card of the MLB Offseason’s Ace Trade Market

Remember when Sonny Gray seemed to have one foot in an Oakland A’s uniform and one foot on the trading block? Those were interesting times.

Now they may be ready for a comeback.

No two Major League Baseball offseasons are exactly alike, but a prevailing theme through all of them is the widespread need for starting pitching. In a related story, another prevailing theme are the showers of cash that fall on the best free-agent aces.

The 2016-17 offseason, however, presents a conundrum: There are no aces on the open market.

Rich Hill is good, but also older and not very durable. After him, the best free-agent pitcher is Jeremy Hellickson. After him…Ivan Nova? Jason Hammel? Bartolo Colon? I mean, you can take your pick.

And so, teams in the market for an ace must turn to the trade market. The trade winds are blowing around names like Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Chris Archer. All good pitchers! Certainly better than any on the open market, anyway.

But therein lies another conundrum. The teams that employ those pitchers know they have key pieces of supply in a world flooded with demand. They can jack up the sticker prices, which could force suitors toward more affordable options.

Which brings us to Gray.

There’s a good reason Gray’s name doesn’t loom as large on the trade market. He put up a 3.08 ERA in 219 innings in 2014 and then finished third in the American League Cy Young voting after posting a 2.73 ERA in 208 innings in 2015. But in 2016, he pitched just 117 innings in 22 starts and watched his ERA balloon to an ugly 5.69.

Nonetheless, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has it on good authority that the A’s are ready to field some calls on their 27-year-old right-hander. 

“Sonny has been a popular trade conversation for the last couple of years, so it won’t be new,” A’s general manager David Forst said at the GM meetings in Scottsdale. “Certainly it’s expected, and we have to be open to anything at this point considering where we are and how much work we have to do to catch up with the teams at the top of our division. I can’t speak to how aggressive teams will be or when the calls will come in, but we have to be open to that conversation.”

When pressed, he added: “It’s nice to have assets people want.”

Given the nature of the A’s finances, it’s relevant that Gray will stop being cheap in 2017. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projects his salary will go from $528,000 to $3.7 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Gray’s arbitration eligibility also means his free agency is now there on the horizon, just three years away. Coming off a 93-loss season in 2016, the A’s are facing a rebuilding stretch that may not be over by then. Trading him for pieces that could boost said rebuild could be their best play.

The deflation of Gray’s value in 2016 should be a deal-breaker, but the lack of options on the open market and the gigantic price tags of alternative trade options are just the things to cancel that out. Rather than a broken pitcher to stay away from, teams may be compelled to look at Gray as a once-great pitcher who could be remade.

Gray is still in his prime years, and one positive sign from his rotten 2016 is that he wasn’t plagued by bad stuff. He lost only 0.2 miles per hour off his fastball from 2015, sitting at 92.7 mph. And according to Baseball Savant, he experienced a significant increase in spin rate.

Gray’s real problem? Command.

He went from 2.6 walks per nine innings in 2015 to 3.2 walks per nine innings in 2016. One thing Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs noticed early on is that Gray wasn’t able to command his breaking stuff. He was throwing too many non-competitive curveballs and sliders way down below the strike zone. That would lead to walks.

That also made it easier for hitters to sit fastball. Gray could find the zone with those, but too often found the wrong parts of it. Per Brooks Baseball, he threw more four-seamers and sinkers right down the middle:

Hitters responded accordingly. They hit .310 against Gray’s four-seamer and .380 against his sinker. This after hitting .262 and .270 against them the prior season.

The elephants in the room are the injuries Gray suffered. He went on the disabled list with a bad shoulder in May and with a bad forearm in August. 

The shoulder injury is especially alarming when paired with what was going on with Gray’s release point earlier in the year. It was down from where it had been throughout 2015. That won’t go unnoticed or unworried about by potential suitors.

But the silver lining also isn’t hard to spot. Albeit in limited exposure, Gray’s release point did move back up toward the end of the year. That’s a sign he’s not necessarily damaged goods, and that his struggles in 2016 may have been due to a mere mechanical funk.

Such things can be fixed. And in this case, fixing such a thing could turn Gray back into what he was in 2014 and 2015: one of the best pitchers in baseball.

What it would cost to take this chance won’t be cheap. The A’s can demand one or two elite prospects or perhaps some established major league talent with controllability and untapped upside.

However, that doesn’t sound so bad compared to what it would take to land one of the other guys.

Sale ($38 million through 2019) and Archer ($39 million through 2021) have value even beyond what’s left on their contracts. That would have to be matched by a bucket of top prospects in a trade.

Verlander and Greinke don’t have that kind of excess value on top of their remaining contracts. But if a team deals for either one, it would have to take on all or most of the $84 million (or $106 million if his 2020 option vests) owed to Verlander or the $172.5 million owed to Greinke.

Since going home without an ace isn’t an option, the choice before teams is to either pay a huge price for a sure thing or a lesser price for a lottery ticket. Gray’s the latter, and he could be a winner.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Sonny Gray Injury: Updates on Athletics Pitcher’s Arm and Return

Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray suffered a forearm injury during his start against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. It is uncertain when he will return to action.

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Gray Placed on 15-Day DL

Sunday, Aug. 7

The Athletics announced the roster move, noting Chris Smith was called up from Nashville to take Gray’s place.

Gray’s Injury the Latest in a Long Season for Star Pitcher

This is a difficult blow for Gray, especially since his durability was a defining characteristic in the past two seasons. He pitched 200-plus innings in both 2014 and 2015, but this year has been a different story, as the 26-year-old spent time on the disabled list earlier in the season with a trapezius strain.

Gray came into the 2016 campaign as Oakland’s clear-cut ace after his All-Star campaign in 2015, when he finished third in Cy Young voting with a 2.73 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 169 strikeouts in 208 innings on his way to 14 wins. While he has never posted an ERA higher than 3.08 in a full season, he has struggled mightily in 2016.

Thus far, Gray has posted a 5-11 record with a 5.74 ERA while allowing a career-high 18 home runs.

Oakland does have options to turn to in the starting rotation, including Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea. But with the playoffs already out of reach for the Athletics, there’s no rush to bring their ace back as they finish off a disappointing season. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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David Price and Sonny Gray Building a Bromance That Transcends the Game

Theirs is a friendship based on curveballs, Commodores and chip shots.

Maybe one day, these two Vanderbilt University alums and Tennessee neighbors will be teammates, too.

For now, David Price is the $217 million anchor in a sketchy Boston rotation as the Red Sox take aim at another World Series run.

And Sonny Gray? Scouts are bird-dogging the down-on-his-luck erstwhile ace of the Oakland Athletics as the August 1 non-waivers trade deadline approaches, though his 4-8 record and 5.12 ERA over 17 starts don’t exactly make him the sexiest midseason trade target.

Acquiring Drew Pomeranz from San Diego last week likely precludes Boston from adding another starting pitcher this month. But maybe it doesn’t. However it plays out, one thing is clear: Somewhere, sometime, these two great friends would love to be teammates.

“Absolutely. It’s something we’ve talked about before,” Price told B/R during a conversation before Boston acquired Pomeranz. “Before I signed with the Red Sox.

“I knew how they operate in Oakland…[And with] our minor league system, how many prospects we had, and how young our team still is with the core group of guys we have and to be kind of logjammed at some of those positions, [I knew] that something like [a trade for Gray] could happen…

“We can do anything. We have the money to do whatever we want. We have the prospects to make whatever trades we want. There’s not a guy in baseball that we could not trade for: [Bryce] Harper, [Mike] Trout, it doesn’t matter who it is. We have the prospects, we have the money and we have Dave Dombrowski [Boston’s president of baseball operations], who is not afraid to go out there and make a big splash.”

Nobody is more aggressive at the trading table than Dombrowski. Price knows this firsthand. The former Tigers president and general manager brought Price to Detroit from Tampa Bay at the 2014 trade deadline, then shipped Price to Toronto at last summer’s trade deadline.

In the last couple of weeks alone, Dombrowski has acquired infielder Aaron Hill (from Milwaukee), closer Brad Ziegler (from Arizona) and Pomeranz (from San Diego).

Over the past several seasons in Detroit, aside from Price, Dombrowski landed right-hander Doug Fister (from Seattle), Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez (from Miami), Prince Fielder (free agent) and more.

“Those were all the factors that went into my decision to be here,” Price says when asked about the possibility of one day teaming with his buddy Gray, and knowing Dombrowski‘s aggressive nature. “I know we’d all welcome him as our teammate, for sure. He’s just a good dude. He’s an energy-giver. He works his tail off. He’s a guy you want to be around every day.”

In the winter, Price has that chance.

They often work out together at Vanderbilt.

“He’s great,” Gray says. “He’s super fun to be around. He has great personality on- and off-field…He’s a fun-loving, genuine guy.”

They talk, they laugh, they golf, they tweet.

“I think it’s a middle-Tennessee bond, to be honest with you,” says Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt’s head baseball coach since 2003. “They come from a very similar area. Murfreesboro [where Price grew up] and Smyrna [Gray’s home], really, are side by side.”

Price came through Vanderbilt first, pitching for the Commodores from 2005-07, when Tampa Bay picked him first overall in the draft that June.

Gray followed, pitching for the Commodores from ’08-11. Oakland picked him 18th overall in the June 2011 draft.

Each entered Vanderbilt as a local star, each pitched right away as a freshman and each exited as a highly celebrated first-round pick.

But it isn’t simply geography and common alumni status that cause the two to text each other incessantly and frequently share their affinity for each other via social media.

“Their personalities are similar,” Corbin says. “They’re fun. You see them smile a lot. They have an innocence about them that has never been tainted by getting to the big leagues very fast. They keep the game for what it is. They’ve never taken the game and made it more serious than what it is.

“They’re very good competitors, but they also enjoy what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. They’re both very inclusive. They celebrate teammates.”

From the exterior, it would seem to be an odd pairing.

Gray is 5’10”, right-handed and white.

Price is 6’5″, left-handed and African-American.

Yet they fit together like texting and teenagers.

Take the time Gray had a starring role in his high school’s production of High School Musical. Corbin, his wife, Maggie, and their daughters, Molly (now 31) and Hannah (28), trekked to Smyrna High School to see his recruit’s acting chops.

“He was the lead singer; he can’t sing; he’s terrible,” Corbin says, chuckling. “Like everything Sonny does, he thought he was really good. And he is really good at most things. Just not singing.

“So he’s on stage, there are something like 300 people in the auditorium at the play. My phone buzzes, and he must have seen I was on the phone. He texts me during the play, sends me a text that says ‘Pay attention!’

“I showed that to my wife, and she couldn’t believe he was singing and acting and could still text.

“At that point, I knew we had a confident player.”

Then there’s Price, a frequent winter visitor to Corbin’s office. One problem: Corbin is a neat freak who likes things organized and clean. And Astro, Price’s beloved French bulldog, usually rides shotgun with his master.

“David will bring Astro into my office and let him run around on my couch, and he laughs because I’m so meticulous with my things,” Corbin says. 

“He’ll have Astro up on my couch, and when I’m not in, he’ll have Astro sleeping on my pillow.

“It pisses me off, and he loves it.”

What Gray, Price and the other Commodores do is essentially serve as the sons Tim and Maggie never had. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, you should have been watching the MLB Network television broadcast of last year’s AL Cy Young Award announcement. Because they were both finalists and live within 25 minutes of each other, Gray and Price gathered, along with an MLB Network production crew, in Price’s basement.

As they were setting up, Price told the technicians, “OK, I want Corbs and Maggie to be right behind us” in the live shot.

“Why?” a technician asked.

“Because we’ve got to get some recruiting advantage out of this,” Price reasoned.

“So we’re sitting behind them,” Corbin recalls, “and I’m holding Sonny’s baby, Gunnar (one-and-a-half years old), and I had Gunnar drooling all over me in the shoot, and my wife’s holding Astro, and Astro is lapping her leg.

“The kids were getting interviewed, and we’re like grandparents holding the kids in the back seat of the Ford station wagon.

“Those two are pretty funny. They’re comedians. They provide lot of comic entertainment for us, for sure.”

Neither won that night, as Houston’s Dallas Keuchel ended up taking home the AL Cy Young Award. Price, the 2012 winner, finished second, while Gray was third.

Another unique shared memory in two lives filled with plenty of shared experiences.

Gray, 26, first became aware of Price, 30, when the latter was starring on the Blackman High School baseball and basketball teams in Murfreesboro. When Gray was in high school, he watched Price pitch at Vanderbilt.

Price recalls that during his junior year at Vanderbilt, after having heard so much about Gray’s local exploits quarterbacking the Smyrna High team to Tennessee 5A state titles in ’06 and ’07, he finally went to watch him play baseball that spring.

“He played quarterback, and he’s not the biggest in stature and that was in 5A, the biggest class at the time in Tennessee,” Price says, still wowed. “I remember my junior year we didn’t have practice [one day], so I went back home and he was pitching, so I went to go see what all the hype was about. Sonny Gray. I was blown away.

“It was hands down the best high school arm I’d ever seen. He was 94-96 mph, 97, hitting spots, throwing a curveball, slider, changeup. He had a four-pitch mix at 18 years old. It was by far the best high school arm I’d ever seen.”

Gray was aware of the big guy’s scouting mission.

“We all knew his name, obviously, with him being so close to where I was from,” Gray says. “Anytime he came around, you obviously knew he was there because it was a big deal to everyone. It’s not like he can show up somewhere and hide.”

Price says he didn’t help recruit Gray to Vanderbilt, deferring all credit for that to Corbin. Neither recalls the first time they met. Rather, the relationship simply evolved. Corbin told Price that Gray reminded him of Price—his work ethic, how much he cared, how special he was both as a baseball player and as a person. He told Price that Gray’s total focus was the team, same as Price’s always was.

From there, they gravitated toward each other.

Now, it isn’t so much gravity as a magnetic force.

“At times it’s like [he’s a] big brother, and at times it’s like a good friend,” Gray says. “It’s definitely a relationship that’s grown over the last three or four years.”

Says Price: “I don’t look at it as big brother-little bother. He’s just a really good friend. He’s a really good dude. I don’t know anybody that has anything negative to say about Sonny Gray. He’s a really good human.”

In the winter, they’re among a group of 30 or so who work out at Vanderbilt. The gathering includes ex-Commodores and random major leaguers drawn to the school’s facilities by Price, Gray or both. Last winter’s group included Baltimore’s Brad Brach and Pedro Alvarez, Tampa Bay’s J.P. Arencibia and Curt Casali, Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier, the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist and more.

Quite a statement, too, given that Arencibia is welcome even though he played at rival Tennessee. But that’s how difficult it is not to smile along with Gray and Price, and their crowd.

“Good kids attract good kids,” Corbin says. “It’s a nice element we have.”

Price and Gray, of course, are regular throwing partners during these winter workouts, which led Price to quiz his younger colleague about the grip on his lethal curveball. Despite the fact that Gray is right-handed and Price is a lefty, the curve Price started throwing last year came from Gray.

“I worked on it every day with him [that winter],” Price says.

Conversely, when Gray pitched against Boston in Fenway Park earlier this season during a stretch in which he was struggling badly, it was Price who dispensed wisdom afterward. They talked for 15 or 20 minutes on Gray’s bullpen day, two days after the Sox blistered him for seven runs in 3.2 innings.

Trust your stuff, Price told him. Things are going to get better. Everything is falling in for a hit right now, and that will change.

“You can’t change what you’re doing just because you’re not getting the results you expect to get,” Price says.

The seeds of the trust factor between them spring not just from their elite talent, but from time spent together away from the field, too.

In the winter, Price estimates they golf together five times a week.

“Absolutely,” Price says. “He’s the first guy I’m going to text and say, ‘Do you want to play golf?’ We play a lot together, his stepdad and myself, his Uncle Rick and our friends from high school.”

Says Gray: “We already have a trip planned this offseason. We joined a place back home, joined the same place and we got to play quite a bit.

“It’s really fun when you beat him, too.”

Scoreboard? Price says they probably each win about 50 percent of the time…then, grinning, he backs off just a bit.

“I’d say he probably wins a little bit more, for sure,” Price says. “But it’s always fun.”

If this winter’s trip is anything like Price’s golf tournament last winter, more laughs—if not birdies—are in store.

“They have log cabins they built a couple years ago,” Price says. “So we all stayed out at the log cabins. They left the lights up at night; they had little garage doors you could hit out of onto the driving range. The driving range lights up, and they have these huge putting greens, and two greens in the back you can hit chips.

“Sonny, myself and some more of our buddies stayed out there for a couple of nights, had that whole experience. We played night golf, because they gave us these really souped-up golf carts with lights on them, and we had a blast. We’re going to do it again this year.”

Often in Nashville in the offseason, they’re together attending the NHL’s Predators games. Or they’re going out to eat, or just hanging out. And though they live about 25 minutes apart now, that distance is about to shrink: Gray is building a house closer to Nashville.

If it sounds like one big, happy family, well…

Gray will be married this offseason and is already father to Gunnar, which continues to amuse Price.

“He’s a good kid, cute and well-behaved,” Price says. “I don’t have any kids, so I don’t know what all that entails. But I know that a lot of people who know Sonny Gray, if you told them he has a one-and-a-half-year-old, they’d be like, ‘Oh boy.’ Because Sonny’s a little kid himself, and to look at him being a dad, it’s kind of crazy.”

Eventually, it may happen to Priceand perhaps sooner rather than later: He’s recently engaged now, too.

So Corbin figures he’ll have Gray’s wedding to attend this offseason and Price’s maybe a year from then.

“I thought [Price] was marrying Astro when he told me he was getting married,” Corbin quips.

Seriously, Corbin says, “They’re talented human beings. They’re five-star people, they really are…They’re as loyal as the day is long. It’s great. You don’t really think about their relationship because it is very simple and it’s real. It’s not manufactured.”

So far, they’ve been teammates for only one game: the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati.

That could change, of course, in this or a near-future trading season. That conversation Price had with Gray last winter? Hey, man, this could work out if Oakland trades you…why not dream big?

“He just smiled that big ol‘ smile he has,” Price says. “He probably rubbed his fingers through his thinning hair.

“He just wants to win. That’s what it’s about and that’s what he’s done. When the time comes, if that were to happen, I can’t speak for him but I know that I would be happy. That would be very cool.”

Says Gray: “We always talk about hopefully one day down the road, or whatever happens, it would be nice. We’ve never actually played on the same team. It would be cool. But who knows? Who knows how this game ever turns out?

“He’s a good guy to be around, for sure.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Sonny Gray Injury: Updates on Athletics Pitcher’s Trapezius and Return

The Oakland Athletics announced Sunday they placed starting pitcher Sonny Gray on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right trapezius. It is uncertain when he will return to action.

Continue for updates.

Gray Comments on Injury, Recovery

Sunday, May 22

Gray told reporters he received a cortisone shot after Friday’s start against the New York Yankees. He said he believes the injury is “minor” and doesn’t expect to miss more than the minimum 15 days.

Gray also told reporters his trapezius started to bother him after a bullpen session in Tampa Bay last weekend.

Injury Adds to Disappointing 2016 Season for Gray

The Bay Area News Group’s John Hickey noted how unlucky Oakland has been with injuries this year:

Gray entered 2016 as the ace of the A’s staff. He won 14 games for the second season in a row last year and finished with a 2.73 ERA.

In doing so, the 26-year-old relied on his defense. He ranked 13th among qualified starters in ground-ball percentage (52.7), and opposing hitters averaged .255 on balls in play, the fifth-lowest mark in baseball. As a result, his FIP (3.45) and xFIP (3.69) told a somewhat different story than his ERA.

The BABIP gods can be fickle from one season to the next, so repeating his third-place finish in American League Cy Young Award voting could be difficult for Gray.

His performance this year is a testament to that fact. In nine starts, he is 3-5 with a 6.19 ERA and 5.09 FIP, which is the 12th-highest mark among qualified starters. He also leads the majors by a wide margin with nine wild pitches.

The Athletics need Gray to be excellent again if they are to have any chance of contending for the playoffs. In their rotation, Rich Hill continues to defy skeptics, but neither Sean Manaea nor Kendall Graveman inspires much confidence. Henderson Alvarez has also missed the start of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery.

That lack of depth is what makes Gray’s recovery all the more important. Oakland’s fortunes don’t hinge solely on the 2015 All-Star, but if he misses a large chunk of the year, it will all but seal a lost season.


Stats are courtesy of FanGraphs.

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Sonny Gray Becomes Must-Watch Trade-Deadline Chip with Stephen Strasburg Signed

Under normal circumstances, a struggling pitcher with an ERA north of 5.00 wouldn’t inspire feverish trade speculation.

But the Oakland AthleticsSonny Gray isn’t a normal struggling pitcher. And these aren’t normal circumstances. 

Stephen Strasburg signed a seven-year extension with the Washington Nationals on May 10. Just like that, the only legitimate ace in next season’s shallow free-agent pool and one of the biggest possible trade-deadline prizes disappeared.

The demand for pitching, however, isn’t going anywhere. Toss a rosin bag—particularly in the wide-open American League—and you’ll hit a flawed contender with holes in its rotation.

Enter Gray and his 5.84 ERA.

That’s an ugly number, and it hasn’t been a pretty stretch for the Oakland right-hander. In his last four starts, he’s 0-3 with a 10.31 ERA, 14 strikeouts and nine walks in 18.1 innings. 

He’s also 26 years old, owns a 3.13 career ERA, eclipsed 200 innings each of the last two seasons and finished third in American League Cy Young Award balloting in 2015. He’s under team control through the 2019 season. And he opened 2016 by going 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. 

If you’re looking at recent results, there’s risk. If you focus on track record and body of work, it’s mostly reward.

Again, the pitching cupboards are practically bare. Among next winter’s free agents, second-tier talents such as the San Diego Padres‘ Andrew Cashner and New York Yankees‘ Ivan Nova could incite bidding wars.

And with the second wild-card slot keeping so many clubs on the fringe of the playoff picture, the list of true sellers could be exceedingly short come July.

Will the A’s be one of them? And if so, will they unload Gray?

At 19-22, Oakland sits four games out in the AL West entering play Thursday. A hot streak in the next few weeks might change the calculus, but right now, the A’s appear headed for a patented midseason sell-off.

There are other chips on the roster, including impending free-agent outfielder Josh Reddick. Gray, however, would be the big fish.

Here’s how ESPN.com’s Buster Olney assessed the situation in late April:

Whether the Athletics actually seriously consider trading Gray is something more likely to be determined in July than in April or May…

But history tells us general manager Billy Beane is always open to discussing a deal, especially when he perceives the value of a player to be nearing its apex, and Gray’s position in the market could be unique over the next 14 weeks. Considering the rest of the pitching landscape, Gray could be Mount Everest sitting in the middle of Death Valley.

That was before the Strasburg extension. Now, Beane and Oakland have even more leverage. They can toy with prospect-rich contenders and crank the price into the stratosphere.

The Boston Red Sox have a deep farm system and questions in the rotation. Same goes for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The St. Louis Cardinals could use another arm to support their potent offense, as could the Baltimore Orioles.

The Houston Astros‘ starting pitching is in disarray. The defending champion Kansas City Royals went out and got Johnny Cueto at the deadline last year and could go ace shopping again.

Really, it’d be easier to list the teams that wouldn’t at least put loafer to Goodyear if Gray is made available.

Yes, his early hiccups and crooked ERA dampen his value. A few strong starts, however, could reverse that in a hurry.

Gray expressed optimism after his most recent outing May 15, when he surrendered three home runs but lasted 5.2 innings in a 7-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays and made an in-game adjustment that helped him keep the ball down, per MLB.com’s Jane Lee.

“I’ve constantly been leaving the ball up, and you can tell,” Gray said, per Lee. “It was literally just a visual thing to get the ball back down, and you could tell there, when it’s back down, it’s got great life on it, and you start to see the swing and misses.”

Catcher Stephen Vogt concurred.

“He got his movement down in the zone back,” Vogt said, per Lee. “And I think for him he felt it and was excited when he came out of the game.”

Now, imagine if Gray builds on that and starts to look like this guy:

The Athletics, as Olney pointed out, don’t have to move him now. They could wait until the offseason, when teams will be scrapping over free-agent bones. Or they could hold him until next summer.

Beane, however, is always ready to pick up the phone. As the postseason races heat up, his line will start ringingand a lot of the calls will be about Gray.

The risk is real. But, particularly in these pitching-starved times, so is the reward.


All statistics current as of May 18 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Sonny Gray Illness: Updates on Athletics Pitcher’s Food Poisoning and Return

Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray is suffering from food poisoning and was unable to make Monday’s Opening Day start against the Chicago White Sox. Rich Hill started in Gray’s place. However, he’s ready to return.

Continue for updates.  

Gray Will Start vs. White Sox

Tuesday, April 5

Gray said he will be on the mound Wednesday against Chicago, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gray Is Dominant Force at Top of Oakland’s Rotation

Gray will resume his role as the ace of Oakland’s rotation and gives the A’s their best opportunity to win every fifth day. The 26-year-old is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and is likely just hitting his prime as a legitimate force for Oakland.

Gray was a first-time All-Star in 2015 and finished with a 2.73 ERA, 169 strikeouts and a 5.8 WAR. He also wound up third in the American League Cy Young voting, trailing only Houston’s Dallas Keuchel and David Price of the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. 

The Athletics face an uphill challenge to reach the postseason in the difficult American League West this season, even with Gray anchoring the rotation. 


All statistics via Baseball-Reference.com.

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Updating the Hottest Questions of the 2015-16 MLB Offseason, Week 7

It’s already Week 7 of the 2015-16 MLB offseason, and Clayton Kershaw still needs a sidekick.

From figuring out who will be backing up baseball’s nastiest starter at Dodger Stadium to trying to explain why so many prominent free-agent bats remain unsigned, there are all sorts of questions to ponder as 2016 inches ever closer.

There’s room in this week’s conversation for talk about whether one of the game’s most underrated bullpen aces could be on the move. But first, let’s get back to Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ work-in-progress rotation.


Who Will Be the No. 2 Starter at Chavez Ravine?

The Jose Fernandez trade talk just won’t go away.

And the Miami Marlins aren’t exactly quashing the noise:

According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the door remains slightly ajar when it comes to the Dodgers and Fernandez:

But based on the Marlins’ staggering reported asking price, the key phrase is likely “no deal close.” Back during the winter meetings, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com explained that the Fish wanted Julio Urias, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and two more players in exchange for the electric Cuban.

For the Marlins, there’s no harm in asking. But that’s the kind of exorbitant demand that would lead Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman to hang up the phone and hang up fast.

Lyle Spencer of MLB.com suggested that Friedman should give Billy Beane a ring as he searches for that second ace:

Gray doesn’t generate the same buzz as Fernandez, but the diminutive righty is a rising star in his own right. In 2015, the starter landed third in the American League Cy Young Award voting. And Beane, the Oakland Athletics’ executive vice president of baseball operations, is in no rush to cash in on Gray.

“It’s a fair question,” Beane said, when asked by Joe Stiglich of CSN California about the topic of trading Gray. “And you could imagine how many people, at least early in the winter, were inquiring on him. We were pretty aggressively returning those calls and saying it wasn’t something we were gonna consider. That’s our stance now.”

So where could the Dodgers turn with Fernandez and Gray looking like virtual no-go’s?

Jake Odorizzi is one guy to watch out for. Per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Los Angeles has already checked in with the Tampa Bay Rays about the starter, who turns 26 in March.

Odorizzi doesn’t have nearly the same national profile as Fernandez or even Gray, but there’s still a lot to like about his arm. Last year, the starter was eighth in the AL with a 3.35 ERA. Thanks to his contract situation, he could also be a Dodger for the foreseeable future, as he remains under team control through the 2020 season.

The Answer: Odorizzi


What the Heck Is Going on with the Free-Agent Market for Bats?

The market for top-of-the-line position players has been moving about as fast as a glacier.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports provided the cold hard numbers: “Only two free-agent position players have signed multiyear contracts this offseason for more than $20 million guaranteed—outfielder Jason Heyward and infielder Ben Zobrist.”

Surveying the remaining class of bats, here’s the list of guys who should have already cleared that relatively low bar:

Davis is the outlier here, as the masher could have already landed a new gig if he had wanted to. As Heyman noted, the Baltimore Orioles “pulled” a seven-year, $154 million offer after Crush Davis and his agent Scott Boras took too long thinking about it.

The slow play is classic Boras, as the super-agent is well-known for his strategy of waiting out the market before securing a megadeal seemingly out of nowhere at the last moment.

But when it comes to the nearly nonexistent market for Cespedes, Upton and Gordon, it’s much more difficult to explain just what’s going on.

Cespedes cracked 35 home runs last year, and so far he doesn’t have a single reported offer.

Noah Syndergaard would like to see the New York Mets make an offer.

“Of course we’re hoping [that he’ll be back],” Syndergaard said, per Dan Martin of the New York Post. “We all saw the tear he went on from July through the end of the season. We’d love to have that bat back in the lineup, so as long as he’s out there, we’re hoping for that.”

But Joel Sherman of the Post was quick to dash those hopes:

As long as Cespedes remains on the block, Upton could be in a bind. Like La Potencia, Upton is a slugger best suited for left field. But last year, Cespedes trumped Upton in WAR, average, slugging percentage, OPS, home runs and RBI, per FanGraphs.

And then there’s Gordon. Unlike Cespedes and Upton, at least the longtime Kansas City Royal has drawn some concrete interest, per Heyman, from clubs like the Orioles, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants. Rosenthal also added the Chicago White Sox to that list.

That’s a good start for Gordon.

The problem is that he’s not just competing for a job with all those other corner guys on the free-agent front. He’s also competing with star trade pieces like Carlos Gonzalez. According to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, CarGo—he of 40 home runs in 2015—is available in a swap.

Simply put, the free-agent and trade marketplaces are flush with talent. And word in the industry is that there are more than a few clubs who have no interest in writing any big checks.

That’s a bad look for the game, and even worse news for the players.

The Answer: Thanks in Part to Tanking, Supply is Exceeding Demand


Will the Pittsburgh Pirates Sell High on Mark Melancon?

Neal Huntington, the understated general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, never wins the offseason.

But the clubs that he constructs have a knack for racking up wins during the regular season, as the Bucs have tallied at least 88 Ws in each of the past three campaigns.

The trick is Huntington is always thinking one step ahead and making moves that keep the roster deep yet cost-controlled. With the unheralded Mark Melancon hanging in the trade winds, just such a move could be on tap for the National League Central squad.

“We’ve never had to trade Mark,” Huntington said, per Adam Berry of MLB.com. “It’s always been [a question of] if we’re better with him with us, or if we think it’s a better move for the organization to move him elsewhere, and that still applies.”

That sounds like Huntington is daring rival execs to make him an offer he can’t refuse.

And why shouldn’t he? Melancon, who was eighth in Senior Circuit Cy Young voting in 2015, can become a free agent at the end of next season. The right-hander has put himself on track to score a monster haul next winter.

As a prime candidate to receive a qualifying offer, he’s also all but certain to net the Pirates a compensation pick if he departs. Following that line of reasoning, it would be a shrewd business decision for the team to move Melancon now if the return would significantly beat the value of a comp pick.

The Answer: Not Unless the Pirates Get Overwhelmed


Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.

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Sonny Gray Injury: Updates on A’s Pitcher’s Back and Return

Sonny Gray is having his best season as a professional, but the Oakland Athletics star will have to put it on hold, at least temporarily, as he missed Thursday’s start

Continue for updates. 

Gray’s Status Improving

Friday, Aug. 14

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported Gray is feeling much better after throwing for about 15 minutes on Friday. Slusser added that it’s possible for Gray to start in the team’s upcoming series. Jane Lee of MLB.com reported the earliest Gray would start is Monday.

Gray added, per Slusser, that he was excited to face Kershaw in the start the he missed, but didn’t want to put his team in a bad position.

Gray, 25, made his first All-Star team this season and has been one of the lone bright spots for an Oakland team that has struggled this year, establishing himself as a clear No. 1 starter. He showed his promise a year ago, going 14-10 with a 3.08 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP and 183 strikeouts in 219 innings, but this season, he’s proved to be one of the American League‘s top arms. 

In 23 starts, the 2011 first-round pick is 12-4 with a 2.06 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and 136 punch-outs in 161.2 innings, making him a leading candidate for the American League Cy Young Award.

“You never know which Sonny is going to show up,” Athletics first baseman Ike Davis said of the team’s ace before the All-Star Game, per John Hickey of InsideBayArea.com. “Sometimes it’s All-Star Sonny. Sometimes it’s Cy Young Sonny.”

That makes the loss devastating for a team that’s already struggling this year. Gray’s starts are the team’s best chances at victory, and his continued development and ascension to stardom has been one of the reasons why the Athletics aren’t worse than their 51-64 record indicates.

A playoff berth is highly unlikely regardless of Gray’s status with Oakland currently nine games back in the wild-card race. If the dominant righty is unable to return soon, though, any remaining excitement surrounding the team will essentially be gone.


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