ST. PETERSBURG -- The wait is over. Josh Donaldson, the Indians' blockbuster addition acquired a few hours before the calendar flipped to September, has been activated and is in Cleveland's lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Rays.
As Indians manager Terry Francona announced on Monday, Donaldson was activated from the disabled list following a three-month comeback from a left calf issue. Donaldson got the start at third base, completing a saga that reportedly had multiple teams upset and inquiring with Major League Baseball about why the unique deal was approved.
"We didn't do anything different than any other team could've done," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "And, in fact, there were a lot of other teams that were negotiating with Josh at the time of the trade. Now, we can only see the one reality of what played out, because only one team can end up getting the guy.
"And there's only one thing to assess, and that's what happened in the time that we had Josh with us. But, had he been traded to another team, the very same process very well could've played out with them."
Citing multiple Major League sources, Ken Rosenthal wrote on The Athletic on Sunday that the Yankees and Red Sox "voiced displeasure" with MLB about the sequence of events before and after the trade that sent Donaldson from Toronto to Cleveland. The Astros reportedly sought clarification from the Commissioner's Office about why the deal was approved and were satisfied with the league's reply.
The source of the reported complaints is the fact that Donaldson -- activated on Sept. 1 and placed back on the DL two days later -- was deemed heatlhy enough by the Blue Jays and MLB to be exposed to revocable waivers prior to the Aug. 31 playoff roster deadline. After the 2015 American League MVP cleared waivers, it opened the door for Toronto to discuss a trade with any team.
Prior to acquiring Donaldson and $2.7 million in exchange for a player to be named later (reported to potentially be pitching prospect Julian Merryweather, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow), Antonetti received permission from MLB to speak directly with the third baseman to discuss his comeback. They agreed to hold a medical assessment upon Donaldson's arrival to Cleveland.
"Josh was comfortable with that approach," Antonetti said. "So we went forward with the trade."
Antonetti said that, while the Blue Jays and MLB declared Donaldson healthy enough to be traded and activated, the Indians wanted to make their own evaluation via a workout at Progressive Field. Donaldson went through a series of baserunning, fielding and hitting drills on Sept. 2 and the Indians decided he still needed more time to return to full strength.
"Each team assesses things differently," Antonetti said. "So, I think in the end, what we were focused on was, what's our assessment? And then, once Josh was with us, how do we work with him to figure out what the best plan might be to get him back to performing at the level that he's capable of at the Major League level? And that's what we did."
Donaldson, who has not played in an MLB game since May 28 with Toronto, played for Triple-A Columbus on Sept. 3 and belted a grand slam in his first rehab game for the Tribe. In three games for Double-A Akron over the past week, he has gone 2-for-10 with one home run.
With Donaldson set to take over at third base for the Indians, AL MVP candidate Jose Ramirez will slide to second. That will force veteran second baseman Jason Kipnis to shift to center field -- a move he also made in late September and in the playoffs a year ago. Indians manager Terry Francona noted that once they move to accommodate Donaldson's arrival, Ramirez and Kipnis will stay put at their new positions.
"They won't go back to where they were," Francona said. "Kip has had four really good days [working with the coaches] in center field and he's ready to go. Josey said he was ready to go last week."
After Donaldson's Indians debut Tuesday, Francona said the third baseman would be available off the bench Wednesday and then back in the lineup Friday, following the team's off-day Thursday. Francona will keep working closely with Donaldson to map out his schedule in preparation for the postseason.
"I'll probably just check with him every day," Francona said. "I told him when we get some of these longer games, I'll probably take him out early. We want to watch his volume early on, but he promised he'd communicate with me, too. We'll check with him every day."
Donaldson's communication with the Indians has been an integral part of his comeback, dating back to his talks with Antonetti shortly before the trade came to fruition.
"We didn't know exactly what our assessment would be when Josh got here," Antonetti said. "And also what Josh felt might be the best way to get him fully healthy and back to Major League games. I think what we agreed to that night was we would sit down -- if we went through with the trade and everything played out -- that we would just sit down together and come up with a plan.
"And that plan may very well have been just keep him active, but in the end, that's not what we or Josh felt was best."