Oakland Athletics: Sonny Gray Returning to Former Dominance

The rumor mill is going to get warmed up before too long, and with the way that Oakland Athletics ace Sonny Gray is starting to pitch, he could shoot right up many a trade deadline wish list in the coming weeks.

After placing third in the Cy Young voting in 2015, Sonny Gray endured an injury plagued 2016 en route to a 5.69 ERA and a 5-11 record for a pretty lackluster Oakland Athletics team. Gray started the 2017 season on the disabled list, making his season debut on May 2, and after a couple of starts he is looking more and more like the bonafide ace that he was back in ’15.

In his last two starts against the Red Sox and Marlins, Gray has combined for 13 innings pitched, allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks, which works out to a 2.77 ERA for the 27-year-old righty. The more important number has been that his strikeout rate is really starting to perk up, as he struck out eight Sox over the weekend, followed by eleven Fish yesterday afternoon. This is after combining to strike out nine batters in his first three starts of the season combined.

The reason for the increased K’s? Sonny’s slider is back. The Miami broadcast team mentioned during the game that he has two sliders. The first is the one he throws for a strike, then the second is the wipeout slider that he gets batters to swing and miss at when he gets ahead in the count.

After averaging 3.23 walks per nine last season, his control is returning to a more Sonny-esque level, sitting at 2.78 BB/9 entering yesterday’s game in which he allowed one walk across seven frames. In 2015 he held a 2.55 BB/9 rate, so keeping in line with that number should be one of the many keys to success as Gray doesn’t have an upper-90’s heater to blow the opposition away with. He relies more on location and stuff than velocity.

With Gray beginning to build back some of his value, there will be one big question on a number of GM’s minds: Is he available?

This is going to be a tricky situation for the Oakland Athletics to contend with quite honestly. The club has bits and pieces they’ve been accruing over the past few years that could help them form the next Oakland contender, but some of the bigger pieces (Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman) are still in Triple-A, meaning that the A’s timetable for contention isn’t quite there just yet.

On the flip side of that, Gray won’t be a free agent until after the 2019 season, which would likely give the club at least one shot at a playoff berth with Gray atop the rotation.

The main question for the front office will be weighing the package that they can get in return for their ace and one of their most beloved players, against trading away another fan favorite in a time when they are promoting a #RootedInOakland campaign.

As an A’s fan, I have been through enough of these trades in recent years that one more isn’t going to break this camel’s back, but at the same time, the return is going to have to be worth it.

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