Could A's right-hander Sonny Gray still be moved by the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline? Sure. But the chances fell precipitously Thursday night.
With a scout from virtually every contender in attendance at the Oakland Coliseum, Gray allowed seven earned runs. That tied his season high. He surrendered nine hits, which hadn't happened since early May.
Gray had quelled concerns with four quality starts among his previous five outings, but those questions are back again. Coming off a season in which he finished third in voting for the American League Cy Young Award, Gray's ERA is 5.49.
Oakland officials have such high regard for Gray that it would've been difficult to trade him under any circumstances. Now it's even harder to imagine. The A's believe his value should reflect his superlative 2015 season; the scouts who watched Gray on Thursday saw a struggling pitcher who spent time on the disabled list earlier this year. The gap between those valuations is probably too vast to rectify over the next 10 days.
Gray's clunker was especially unwelcome for the A's in light of the uncertainty surrounding whether lefty Rich Hill will make another start before the Deadline. Hill is not on the disabled list, but he left his most recent start after only five pitches because of a blister on his pitching hand.
The Orioles, Marlins and Rangers had been evaluating Hill before the blister disrupted trade talks, sources say. It's not clear if those teams are actively talking with the A's about Hill any longer.
Oakland may have little choice but to trade Hill for a reduced price. He will be a free agent after this season and is unlikely to clear trade waivers in August due to the approximately $2 million that will remain on his salary as of Aug. 1.
For now, then, outfielder Josh Reddick is at the center of the A's trade discussions. The Cubs, Indians and Dodgers are among the clubs looking to add a corner outfielder; the same pool of teams has been linked to Cincinnati's Jay Bruce.
Gray's diminished standing in the trade market should boost the activity surrounding two right-handers who, like Gray, are controllable for multiple years: Matt Shoemaker of the Angels and Anthony DeSclafani of the Reds.
DeSclafani missed the first two months of the season with a left oblique injury, but his 2.50 ERA since returning on June 10 ranks 13th among qualifying starters. The only trade candidate ahead of him on that list? Shoemaker, at 2.35. (Credit to Lee Sinins at MLB Network for the outstanding research.)
The Padres tried to trade Andrew Cashner before he took the mound Thursday night. Their inability to do so had a neutral effect on Cashner's trade value -- and might've actually helped.
Cashner's outing against the Cardinals -- 5 2/3 innings, one earned run, no walks and eight strikeouts -- affirmed the industry's perception of him: When healthy -- which isn't always the case -- Cashner can pitch effectively for five or six innings. He's also incapable of lasting deep into games.
Case in point: Cashner has thrown 1,286 pitches this season, only one of which recorded an out in the seventh inning or later. And that happened on May 30.