Bay Area, CA | The Oakland Athletics find themselves yet again in familiar territory. Coming off the heels of another bright, albeit brief, era of A's baseball (2012-2014), Oakland has dismantled the remnants of its recent playoff team. Per usual, casual fans are left rooting for the name on the front of the jersey rather than those on the back.
With the firing of pitching coach Curt Young, release of fan favorite C Stephen Vogt, and trade of another in RP Sean Doolittle, the A's are back in rebuilding mode. So we turn our attention to Oakland's ace, SP Sonny Gray. Though slowed by injuries in 2016, this season Gray has looked more like his old self. This is good news for the A's as it puts Gray back into the conversation as an elite pitching commodity. With the trade deadline looming teams are inquiring about Gray's services, with two possible landing spots being the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers.
While rebuilding there isn't much incentive for Oakland to keep Gray. The team is optimistic in its developing group of young arms (Daniel Mengden, Jharel Cotton, Sean Manaea, and Kendall Graveman etc.). But the nagging question that remains is where does Gray fit into Oakland's long-term plans? Will Gray serve as ace and mentor to the young arms? Or more importantly – do they need him to?
The A's are in need of can't miss position players and you don't get players like that for nothing. Is Gray's value to the team greater as the trade piece that brings one or more of these prospects to Oakland? The fact that Gray is both cheaper than the alternatives on the market and under team control until 2019 makes it far easier for a potential trading partner to part with the aforementioned prospects.
If the A's are going young with the intention of locking up future stars once they announce their new ballpark in Oakland, they must determine if retaining Gray fits into those plans. I think they already know he does not, and they are working on finding the right players in return for Gray. Until then A's fans will continue to wonder – is this the rebuild they've been waiting for?