Sonny Gray’s Cloudy Future

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OAKLAND, CA - MAY 24: Starting pitcher Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics walks to the dugout before the game against the Miami Marlins at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on May 24, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Things are looking Sonny for Oakland’s number one starter, but his future with the team is looking Gray. What does Sonny Gray’s resurgence mean for the A’s?

Sonny Gray’s Cloudy Future

Gray Returning to Form

After Gray’s injury-riddled 2016 season, the Athletics and their fans were hoping to see the “old Sonny” in 2017. They missed the unflinching rookie that Bob Melvin trusted to start in Game five of the 2013 ALDS over the veteran Bartolo Colon. Unfortunately, as Opening Night approached it became clear that Gray would not be ready to start the 2017 season. Instead, Gray began the season back on the DL. Fortunately, Kendall Graveman did an excellent job as a stand-in number one starter.

Nevertheless, A’s fans were eager to see Gray return in May. In his disappointing debut, Gray gave up three home runs in six innings pitched, looking like the shaky pitcher who finished the 2016 season with a career-worst 5.69 ERA. Gray the ace did not show up in his second start of 2017 either. On May seventh, Gray needed 98 pitches to struggle through a little over four innings.

In hindsight, those three home runs in his debut appear to have been an aberration. In his four starts since, he has surrendered just one home run. Even better, in his last 13 innings pitched, he has struck out 17. His best game of the season was his most recent start on May 24, a 4-1 win over the Marlins.  Gray put on a clinic, needing just 88 pitches to strike out 11, while surrendering just three hits, one walk, and one earned run in seven innings pitched. It was his longest outing since June 10, 2016 and his first back-to-back win since April 2016. Things are looking bright for Gray.

Gray’s Future with the A’s Unclear

Gray’s turnaround is exciting for fans and a bright spot for a team with a struggling defense and bullpen. Unfortunately for A’s fans, their excitement is likely to be short-lived. As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, Gray will become a hot commodity, assuming he continues to look like the ace of old.

Already, baseball analysts are discussing which teams would be the best fit for Gray. Fox’s Ken Rosenthal recently cited Sonny as a perfect fit for the Dodgers. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Buster Olney has suggested the Cubs as the favorites to acquire Gray.

A’s Must Look to the Future

Although the A’s trading of known talent for cheaper, younger prospects has felt like a never-ending pyramid scheme for the past few years, this time a trade might make sense. With new A’s president Dave Kaval working hard to cultivate excitement among A’s fans with improvements to the Coliseum and plans for a new ballpark, it is imperative that the organization improve the product on the field as well. Good food and cheaper beer may soften the blows, but even that is not enough to keep fans in the seats when the team is losing game after game.

With a new ballpark on the horizon, the most prudent plan for the organization is to rebuild the team, and have the talent level reach its zenith at the same time as the new ballpark opens. Imagine the excitement of walking into a brand new ballpark, full of fans chanting, and watching a team with realistic World Series aspirations. The A’s already have a solid start to that future team with top prospects like Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman waiting in the wings. Trading Gray may bring in the missing pieces needed for a bright future.

Clearly, whether this comes to fruition depends largely on the front office. Will they hang onto whatever young talent they may get for Sonny, and build that World Series contending team to play in the new ballpark? Or will they continue the never ending cycle of trades? Only time will tell, but if the A’s are ready to build for the future, a Gray trade is likely to play a pivotal role. A’s fans, enjoy his tenure as an Athletic while it lasts. The outlook is Gray.

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