Oakland Athletics and Sonny Gray: A Complex Riddle About Control

May 15, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) in the dugout at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
May 15, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) in the dugout at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

What can be worse than being drafted in the first round by the Oakland Athletics, knowing that your fortunes are tied to a team that doesn’t even have their own home ballpark, and that you are bound to the team with ball and chain for the next six years? Welcome to the world of starting pitcher Sonny Gray.

Sonny Gray is not your normal run of the mill major league starting pitcher. But while he’s proven to be a cut above the rest, he is not Chris Sale either. So as a result, when his name is bandied about in rumors about a possible trade , the talks don’t seem to have legs and the rumors die quickly until the cycle is drummed up again later, but with the same result that might suggest the A’s are not serious about trading him.

Just to be clear though, when Billy Beane wants to trade someone , he will and without any hesitation. And you only have to look at the list of players he’s traded over the years to see that. It’s a list that includes the likes of Josh Donaldson (to Toronto), Nelson Cruz (to Milwaukee), Tim Hudson (to Atlanta), and Carlos Gonzalez (to the Rockies).

Sonny Gray: The Man In The Middle

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But those are all trades that Beane wanted to make , or needed to make for financial reasons. With Sonny Gray however, you have a player who is under team control until 2020 when he becomes eligible for free agency at the age of 30. His arbitration eligible years begin now and cut into the team’s advantage a bit, but that’s only if he can pitch well enough and avoid seasons like last year (5-11, 5.69).

For his part, Gray is pretty much saying and doing all the right things (what else can he do), including an indication that he would be open to a long term extension deal with the A’s – if one were offered telling the San Francisco Chronicle ,

"“The way this year went, you never know what would come out of that,” Gray said of his subpar season. “On my side, obviously, I’d love for it to be brought up or whatnot. But that’s never been the case. And if it’s not here sometime, I don’t know that it’s worth doing.”"

At the same time though, Gray has to know that he shot himself in the foot with the horrible numbers he put up last season, thereby giving the A’s a hammer to wield over his head. Nevertheless, GM David Forst told the Chronicle , “You never want to take advantage of a player, but in the course of business negotiations, if you take a look at a player who isn’t at his peak, that is potentially better for the club.”

The keywords of course being “potentially better for the club”. All of which puts Sonny Gray in the unenviable position he finds himself in, at least for the time being.

He certainly has to go out there and pitch like he did in 2014 and 2015, when he went a combined 28-17 with a ERA well under 3.00 and 200 innings pitched in each season. Because if he can’t get close or better than that, all bets are off the table.

Sonny Gray: The Ultimate State Of Control

With the A’s holding all the cards at the moment, along with reports like this one that the asking price is way too high at the moment, it appears more likely that the status quo will remain in effect until the trade deadline approaches, and then things will kick into high gear again on the trade front.

Next: Cardinals still have high hopes for Kotlen Wong

Ironically and telling though, for all the ways in which the A’s control him, Sonny Gray has the ultimate power chip in the game. And that is something totally in his control when the team tells him every fifth day, “Sonny, it’s your start today”.