Toronto Blue Jays Trade Brett Lawrie to Oakland Athletics
Sep 25, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) throws the ball to first base in the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Texas beat Oakland 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Donaldson was playing video games when his agent broke the news to him about the trade.
“I’m so shocked,” Donaldson told the Chronicle. “I just got off the phone with [general manager] Billy Beane, and I guess they got an offer that they couldn’t resist. I’m definitely a little emotional about it. Oakland is my home. At the end of the day, it’s a business, as much as it hurts emotionally. The guys in that clubhouse are my brothers.”
Donaldson was not the only one who was shocked, as Oakland A’s beat writer Susan Slusser thought Donaldson was “untouchable” to the A’s.
So while we all try to gather ourselves after Alex Anthopoulos and Billy Beane sent shockwaves through the baseball world, let’s take a look at what both teams are getting in this deal.
For the Blue Jays, Donaldson, 28, is an athletic, sure-handed defender, who batted .255 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs in 158 games last season, and was named to his first All-Star team. A former catcher, converted into a third basemen, he has spent all four of his major league season’s with Oakland, where he has a .268 average, 63 home runs and 228 RBIs in 405 games.
Again, he is a late bloomer that made a couple changes to his game, including his swing, and is now one of the league’s top third basemen. If you need further proof of just how good Donaldson is, look no further than the AL MVP voting the last two seasons, as he finished fourth (2013) and eighth (2014) in his only two years as an everyday player.
Going the other way in this deal is a solid quartet of talented young men, headlined by third basemen Brett Lawrie.
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Lawrie, 24, batted .247 with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs in 70 games for Toronto this past season. But, as has been the case throughout his career, injuries plagued his season as a broken finger and an oblique strain forced him to miss most of the final three months of the year.
In all likelihood, the majority of Blue Jays’ fans are probably stunned that the team would essentially give up on Lawrie.
But let’s be honest here, the Blue Jays chose the more polished offensive player who gave them contract control and flexibility, over the young, ultra-talented, but often-injured Lawrie.
Say what you want about Lawrie’s intensity, there is no denying his admirable hustle and defensive prowess. But again, this appears to me that they ultimately chose, offence, contract control and durability over waiting for a “potential” talent to develop.
On the flip side, there is concern, of course, that Donaldson’s offensive numbers could continue to drop off. Keep in mind that some of that can be attributed to a knee injury he suffered late last season – one that he played through during the A’s playoff push, thus greatly affecting his season totals.
So there is give and take with both Lawrie and Donaldson here.
May 24, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Sean Nolin (71) delivers a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Prospect wise, the loss of Franklin Barreto is the most noteworthy in my opinion. Although many people view him as being a few years away, the 18-year-old shortstop hit .311 at single-A Vancouver last season, and was easily one of the team’s most exciting players. He has the potential to develop into a future everyday shortstop, but at the young age of 18, much is still unknown for a player who is yet to dig into a AAA batter’s box, let alone a big league one.
Beyond Barreto, losing Nolin and Graveman also hurts, but when you consider that the Blue Jays five elite pitching prospects (Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison, Daniel Norris and Roberto Osuna) remain intact, it does not look to be a terrible loss.
After depleting their farm system for the likes of Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester last season, the A’s attempt to replenish their farm system makes sense. Barreto can fill the hole at shortstop left by super-prospect Addison Russell, while the two young arm’s of Nolin and Graveman should be ready to pitch in the major’s some time this summer.
While the return of prospects looks to be more than fair, to give up a player like Donaldson is still a steep price – particularly to the chemistry of the A’s locker room.
Meanwhile, adding Donaldson with Russell Martin and Jose Bautista now gives the Blue Jays another high character leader in the locker room. To me, it clearly signals the Blue Jays commitment to overhauling their clubhouse culture, adding an important element to this deal that we can not statistically account for – clubhouse leadership.
There is still work to do in Toronto though, as massive questions loom at second base, left field, centre field, as well as in the bullpen. Presuming Alex Anthopoulos is not done making moves yet would probably be a fair assessment to make, but when you consider that he has added two elite level ball players in two weeks, you have to be pleased.
Even though the great “what if” question now arises with Lawrie, deals like this are how teams elevate themselves from the 80-win plateau to the 90-win playoff mark. Without changing the dynamics of their lineup, or giving up a lot of prospect capital, the Blue Jays just took a decent spot on their roster and made it great.
What do you think of the Blue Jays trading Brett Lawrie for Josh Donaldson? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.