The Oakland A’s aren’t going anywhere in 2017. Their park is buried under sewage, and their team is buried by 21 games in the AL West. Although there’s been a nice story or two on the roster, this is clearly an organization that should be looking to sell over the next few weeks.
Next item up for bids, Sonny Gray.
Gray came out of the blocks slowly this year — a lat injury cost him April, and he had a 4.72 ERA at the end of May. But something’s clicked over the last five weeks. Gray has a 3.45 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over his last seven turns, with a strikeout per inning.
Although Gray’s two recent wins came against the ordinary White Sox, including Wednesday’s victory (6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 B, 5 K), the overall schedule hasn’t been cushy. He drew the Yankees, Astros, and Nationals over this seven-game stretch — that’s the three top-scoring teams in the majors. Should he remain in Oakland, the slate should get smoother (we can’t specifically list opponents until we know how teams are going to slot after the break).
July is one of our favorite months, as the contending clubs start to gear up for a pennant run and non-contenders gear up for the future. Trading is fun. Player movement is fun. Could the Dodgers make a run for Gray? Are one of the NL Central contenders interested? Would Oakland consider an in-division deal with Houston?
Teams with Gray on the shopping list will be soothed by his secondary stats. His FIP (3.50) and xFIP (3.37) are both well under his front-door ERA of 4.09. His strikeout rate is the highest it’s been in four years. Gray induces ground balls 55.9 percent of the time. The HR/FB is a little juicy at 15.2 percent, but that’s life in the majors these days. Gray is good enough to be a Big 3 arm for a playoff team.
Assuming Gray doesn’t land in Colorado, his fantasy owners should be excited about a possible deal. Gray would give up Oakland’s big park, but he’d be headed for a better overall setup — more offensive support likely, better defense expected. It’s a sunny day for Oakland’s ace, the arrow pointed up.
• Do you have an empty DL spot to work with, or a little bench space? Perhaps Charlie Morton could be of interest. Any pitcher tied to Houston’s juggernaut offense (George Springer, I admit defeat) is an interesting add. Morton (lat) is ready to return Friday at Toronto.
I won’t dial up Morton fresh out of the box, but I’ve always liked his profile. This year, he’s added strikeouts to the mix, fanning 65 in 57.2 innings. A 4.06 ERA and 1.37 WHIP weren’t considered playable to us in recent fantasy years, but the prism is much different in Home Run Derby 2017. Morton is unclaimed in 76 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Scott Feldman is another pitcher who’s sneaking onto the radar, in part through his improvement and in part because the state of pitching is a mess. I doubt anyone had the cojones to trust Feldman in Colorado on Wednesday, but at least he escaped without a disaster turn (5 IP, 4 R, 1 BB, 6 K). His ERA now sits at 3.94, his WHIP at 1.27. These are playable numbers in a deep mixed league, unquestionably.
Feldman is never going to be a strikeout ace, but he’s at the highest whiff rate for his career. Cincinnati’s home park hasn’t bothered him — he has a 3.00 ERA and 1.09 WHIP there. Feldman is actually in the middle of scheduling hell — he just left Coors, and the Nationals, Diamondbacks and Yankees remain on July’s slate. If you want to earmark this add for later in the summer, I get it.
One sneaky selling point for Feldman: he qualifies at both pitcher slots in most formats. The unsexy depth play is yours to make in three-quarters of Yahoo leagues.
• Iowa, it’s been fun. Kyle Schwarber is headed out of state. He did what was needed during his 11 game Triple-A tune up: a .343 average and four home runs. The Cubs sent him down after a nightmarish .171/.295/.378 start.
Chicago’s roster has changed since Schwarber was optioned. Ben Zobrist is off the disabled list. Ian Happ is spreading his wings. Miguel Montero talked his way out of town, not that the Cubs are eager to have Schwarber catch anytime soon. Joe Maddon loves to put out a different lineup card every day, and he has the pieces to play with.
I’m still lukewarm on Schwarber’s fantasy potential (and I don’t have any shares), but he has significant power and still carries the Yahoo catcher tag, so do what you need to do. In many cases, plausible upside is enough to act.
• Mike Scioscia hasn’t been a fantasy-friendly manager for years, especially when it comes to the ninth inning. But this week, everything has come up Bud Norris.
Norris (neck) has returned from the disabled list, and in sharp form: two scoreless innings, one walk, four whiffs. And in Wednesday’s game, all the dots connected — Norris got the save, Cam Bedrosian worked the set-up role, and Huston Street landed on the DL. Norris has just two blown saves on the year, not to mention a 2.29 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and juicy strikeout rate. If he can merely stay healthy, he can take this job and run with it.