Today the Oakland A’s announced one year agreements with Sonny Gray, Liam Hendriks, and Stephen Vogt, avoiding arbitration with all three. Gray will reportedly earn $3.75 million for the 2017 season, while the details of the Vogt and Hendricks agreements remain undisclosed.
Sonny Gray Agreement May Signal Change
The deals offer glimmers of hope that new President Dave Kaval will be a savior to fans losing faith in the franchise. The Sonny Gray agreement may represent a shift in the culture of the club. Kaval has been vocal about building a new stadium in Oakland. He has also promised to let fans have a say in the franchise, even holding open office hours for fans to speak with him in person. Today, Kaval appeared on a Facebook live broadcast to share his progress. He discussed a renovated West Side Club, the widest beer selection in MLB, and a food truck alley. Most encouragingly, he commented on the agreements with Gray, Hendricks, and Vogt. After announcing the news, he said:
“I think this is a great example of how our club is looking not only to bring in new talent, but we’re nurturing the folks that we have now.” – A’s President, Dave Kaval
For A’s fans, that is a breath of fresh air.
It’s Always Sonny in Oakland
Gray made his debut in Oakland in 2013. Bob Melvin had enough faith in Gray’s pitching and mental toughness to start the rookie in two ALDS games, including a crucial Game 5. The A’s lost that game due to a lack of run production. However, Gray cemented his place as the A’s new ace. He followed up his rookie season with 3.08 and 2.73 ERAs in 2014 and 2015, respectively. He was selected to the All-Star game in 2015 and was third in Cy Young voting that season.
In 2016, Sonny Gray struggled for the first time in the majors. He started the season with food poisoning, and also had a stint on the DL with a strained forearm. He ended the season with a career-worst 5.69 ERA. His lackluster season likely allowed the A’s to offer a lower salary for 2017.
The Athletics must have faith that Gray will return to his previous form. If not, at least they have inspired A’s fans to have more faith in the organization.
A’s Believe in Stephen Vogt
Vogt is a fan favorite in Oakland. Every at bat, he is greeted by chants of “I believe in Stephen Vogt!” His hilarious Saturday Night Live-like antics have also endeared him to fans. Despite an unremarkable .255 career batting average, Vogt is a two-time All-Star.
Vogt is a versatile player; in addition to his main role as catcher, he has made appearances at first base and in the outfield. His most important contribution to the team may be as a leader and calming presence for young pitchers. This will be important in the upcoming season; the A’s have two inexperienced pitchers in Jharel Cotton and Sean Manaea. Kendall Graveman may also need a veteran presence behind the plate.
Liam Hendriks a Strong Choice in the Bullpen
Although he went 0-4 in 2016, Hendriks posted a decent 3.76 ERA in 53 games for the Athletics. Hendriks should give the A’s some solid innings and will be a nice option in the bullpen.
Although the outlook is not great for 2017, A’s fans can rest easy knowing that the organization is moving in the right direction. And they can always hope for another surprise season, à la 2012.