After watching GM Billy Beane trade one All-Star, Athletics fans should be less worried when it comes to Sonny Gray.
It isn’t a surprise that most baseball fans believe Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane is going to trade their 25-year-old ace and AL Cy Young Award front-runner Sonny Gray. After all, Beane traded five of his seven 2014 All-Stars, starting with Yoenis Cespedes at last season’s trade deadline, and moved on to Josh Donaldson (a 2015 AL MVP candidate), Derek Norris, Jeff Samardzija and Brandon Moss over the offseason.
This summer, the A’s said goodbye to their sixth 2014 All-Star when Beane sent Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros for minor league catcher Jacob Nottingham and minor league pitcher Daniel Mengden. The only remaining member of the group, closer Sean Doolittle, remains; he signed a contract extension in May 2014 that could keep him with the club until 2020.
The Donaldson trade was the biggest shock to pretty much the entire baseball world. Beane sent the team’s best slugger and a top defensive third baseman to the Toronto Blue Jays for their big league third baseman, Brett Lawrie, and a plethora of prospects in pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin and shortstop Franklin Barreto.
The main reason this crushed so many A’s fans, who were still grieving the loss of Cespedes, was that there had been word from an anonymous A’s executive that there was no way in which Donaldson would be traded. It didn’t even outwardly appear to be an option. Why would the A’s give up their most valuable player when he would still be under team control until 2019. It is the A’s usual M.O. to trade their soon-to-be free agents, but Donaldson didn’t fall under that category.
The trade left many people angry, hurt and confused. If you’re like me, you tend to believe that Beane has a bigger plan brewing. With some of the moves he made at the trade deadline in 2015, it appears he might have been knowingly securing a future for the Athletics, only one without Josh Donaldson in it, for better or for worse.
It was because of this trade that many people around the baseball world and blogosphere speculated that Gray, who won’t be eligible for free agency until 2020, would be a potential trade chip for the Athletics; if Donaldson wasn’t safe, who was?
Everyone knows that Beane is the one who, despite being held to a strict budget by owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher, makes all the team’s major decisions. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has been said to have called Beane over and over to even get Donaldson into the conversation, and that the trade was one that both sides “agonized” over.
Anthopoulos said that Beane had, long before this, told him something that made the trade possible:
“You have to be more focused on what you’re getting in a trade. It’s not supposed to be a one-way street. It’s supposed to work out for both teams.”
So after agonizing over it, Beane became convinced that guys like Graveman, Nolin and Barreto were going to be talented and important parts of the A’s future. Graveman has already joined Sonny Gray in the rotation. With the talent the A’s acquired over the offseason and even moreso this summer, within a year or two at most, the A’s should have a very talented young starting rotation that will be led the then-veteran Gray. That’s a reason a trade involving Gray appears highly unlikely.
Then there is also the fact that when CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman asked Beane directly, just this week, if he would be trading Sonny Gray. He received a response, not from an anonymous A’s executive, but straight from Beane himself saying,
“Not happening. Not even slightly.”
Hopefully, the Athletics and their fans can take solace that this response came from Beane, not someone who knows Beane or surrounds Beane or assists Beane, but from the man himself. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Gray is 100 percent safe, but it means that he is safer than Donaldson was.
It seems most prudent that the A’s, whether this offseason or next, attempt to sign Gray to a contract extension that will allow him to lead the Athletics’ talented young prospects as a complete rotation, with him still in place as the team’s ace. While Beane can be unpredictable, this statement from Beane should make A’s fans and players feel a bit more secure.