The Oakland Athletics are saying Sonny Gray is unavailable. But I don’t believe them.
As the MLB General Managers meetings concluded this week in Florida, multiple reports have members in the A’s front office going on the record to tell the baseball world: “You can’t have Sonny. He’s ours.”
At first glance, that makes sense. The 26-year-old is a bona fide ace who was named a finalist for the 2015 AL Cy Young Award — along with Dallas Keuchel and David Price. In just his second full season, he went 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA in 31 starts. He’s also got some early postseason success, having a 2.08 ERA in two playoff starts in 2013. Bottom line, the kid’s a stud. And he’s everything a big-market club like the Red Sox should be looking for.
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Problem is — and this may be the best argument you could make for Oakland to keep him — Gray is under club control through 2019. Next year is the last year that he’ll receive the league minimum. After that, Gray will be arbitration-eligible from 2017-2019.
So it makes sense for the Athletics to keep him. Until, of course, you look at the history of their organization.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, “The A’s are gonna do what the A’s are gonna do.” Yeah, I just quoted myself. Only because I’ve been shouting about Gray since his 2013 playoff performance. I just figured, by around this time, he’d be available in a trade. Something the A’s are telling us he’s not.
However, history shows that Oakland can be persuaded. All you have to do is go back to last November, when Billy Beane traded 28-year-old All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for third baseman Brett Lawrie, pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin, and minor-league shortstop Franklin Barreto.
The A’s let it be known they were not trading Donaldson, who had just become arbitration-eligible. In fact, New York Post columnist Joel Sherman reported this past September that Yankees GM Brian Cashman called Beane last November, asking about Donaldson, and Beane “assured” him that the A’s were not trading Donaldson.
But everybody’s got a price. And that’s why the Blue Jays ended up convincing Beane to consider it. Toronto’s GM Alex Anthopoulos wouldn’t stop calling, according to Sherman’s report. Oakland’s front office called Anthopoulos “relentless.” But apparently that’s what you have to be if you want to acquire someone who has already been declared untouchable.
Point is, nobody’s untouchable, or unavailable, or however you want to put it. Especially if you’re playing for Beane in Oakland. And even more so if you’re about to get a hefty payday.
The difference between Donaldson and Gray? Gray will once again be playing under the league minimum in 2016. His big salary increase won’t come until he’s arbitration eligible after the 2016 season, so the A’s don’t have to move him this winter.
But they also didn’t have to move Donaldson last winter. Donaldson lost his arbitration case after he was traded to Toronto, and played for $4.3 million last year. A large increase from the $500,000 he made in 2014, but not something Oakland couldn’t afford.
After all, they didn’t want to trade him. It’s what they told the media, other general managers, and themselves. Then came an offer that swept them off their feet.
Right now, Oakland says Sonny Gray is unavailable.
If I’m Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, I’m channeling my inner Alex Anthopoulos, and making the A’s an offer they can’t refuse.