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Gray area: Sonny's trade value skyrocketing

Rolling right-hander twirls 6 strong innings in finale vs. White Sox
MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- Sonny Gray, if not already the most coveted player on the block this summer, demonstrated why he should be Wednesday afternoon.

The A's right-hander held the White Sox to three hits in six innings, despite dealing with a minor stomach issue, to pick up his fourth win of the season, a 7-4 victory in front of Oakland Coliseum fans hoping they haven't seen the last of Gray in green and gold as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears.

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OAKLAND -- Sonny Gray, if not already the most coveted player on the block this summer, demonstrated why he should be Wednesday afternoon.

The A's right-hander held the White Sox to three hits in six innings, despite dealing with a minor stomach issue, to pick up his fourth win of the season, a 7-4 victory in front of Oakland Coliseum fans hoping they haven't seen the last of Gray in green and gold as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears.

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Gray, who struck out five and walked two, exited his final start of the first half with a 4.00 ERA. Watching him has proven far more inspiring than tracking his ERA, which would do a disservice to the pitcher, since it hardly sums up his performance -- particularly of late.

Gray is generating the kind of special movement with his fastball that few pitchers can, and he's subsequently inducing ground balls at a rapid rate, helping him pitch not only effectively, but efficiently.

"I think I've just gotten into a little bit of a groove, a little bit of a rhythm," Gray said. "When I'm at my best I'm not necessarily going to strike a lot of people out, but I'm going to get a lot of ground balls, and I've been getting that a lot lately."

Oakland's ace has allowed just four earned runs in his last 21 innings, with Wednesday's showing marking the 10th time in 13 starts this year he's limited opponents to three earned runs or fewer. On eight occasions, they've managed five or fewer hits against him.

Video: ATL@OAK: Gray tosses eight solid one-run innings

"I just feel like I'm able to do what I want with the baseball right now," Gray said. "When I'm at my best, that's what I'm going to be doing. I feel good."

Gray's value has subsequently heightened, following an ineffective, injury-plagued 2016 season. He did miss this past April because of a strained lat muscle, but his health has since been a non-issue -- one reason the A's won't shy away from dealing him earlier rather than later this month, with health risks on the line.

Then again, the A's don't absolutely need to trade Gray, who comes with two more years of club control. That's why his asking price will be substantially steep should Billy Beane and Co. opt to swing a deal for the pitcher in return for several long-term assets that can help form the core of a contender in Oakland.

The Astros have been heavily linked to Gray, as have a slew of other contenders, including the Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and D-backs. The list is only likely to grow in ensuing days.

"He's back to looking like he has in the past, and a lot of it had to do with health," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Last year it was back and forth on the DL and the sharpness in his pitches. I don't know that in his mind he felt great even when he was out there in the past. Once he came back to start this year and got a couple starts under his belt, the velocity is back, the movement was back and now he's back doing his thing like we've expected him to do."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Sonny Gray