Oakland Athletics’ ace Sonny Gray is one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball. If he hadn’t fallen off completely in September – and then hurt himself when the A’s refused to just shut him down early despite not being in a playoff race – Gray certainly had a chance at taking home the Cy Young Award this season.
Gray’s talent, his age and his contract make him a prime target for many teams. While the A’s are far off from contention, needing at least a year of “rebuilding” time before they’re ready to be a truly viable playoff option, Gray could instantly make any team better. He could likely net the Athletics a few of the league’s top prospects if they dealt him away this winter.
That said, trading Sonny Gray would be the biggest mistake the A’s could ever make. Their fan base is on the edge already. The trades of young superstars like Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson hurt not just the team itself, but the brand. To trade away Gray is essentially to say that you’ve entered a definite, long-term rebuild – and fans don’t like that. Regardless of what the baseball impact would be – and anytime a team can trade one good young player for multiple good young players, it’s usually a smart deal – the PR impact would be so severe that the A’s just can’t do it.
Gray means more to the team than just a 14-7 record and a 2.73 ERA. It isn’t about his three complete games, or his 169 strikeouts, or even the fact that he’s far better than any other pitcher on the team. Gray’s tenure with the team will prove whether or not the A’s truly do refuse to hang on to their best players and top talent in the name of trading for the future, and the team needs to hang on to him to show that they aren’t willing to part with just anyone.
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The A’s are in a precarious place right now. They’re not really good enough to contend next year, no matter what moves they make this off-season. They have holes in their bullpen, their lineup, their defense and their rotation. For all of the talk about how many good, young arms are going to be competing as starters next season, the fact is that many of those arms aren’t healthy, or are so young that they’re entirely unpredictably.
The lineup needs more than just one big bat, too. The A’s don’t have a superstar on any part of their roster, much as it may be hard for fans to admit. Most of the top talent on the Oakland roster would be considered role players on a team like the Dodgers or the Angels. Even Josh Reddick has holes in his game that would make him far less valuable on another squad.
The one exception to this is Gray. Luckily for the Athletics, Gray is here long-term. He isn’t about to become a free agent, which gives them plenty of time to build around him and grow the team into a contender. Trading Gray would be a huge mistake due to the PR disaster it would lead to, and the Athletics just cannot afford to do it – no matter what he might bring back in return.