A's send Donaldson to Blue Jays for Lawrie
Oakland also adds three prospects from Toronto in deal for All-Star third baseman
OAKLAND -- In a shocking trade that sets the stage for a potential rebuilding movement, the A's shipped All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays on Friday evening in exchange for four players, including Brett Lawrie.
The other three are prospects: right-hander Kendall Graveman, lefty Sean Nolin and shortstop Franklin Barreto.
"I'm shocked," said Donaldson. "Here I am sitting around playing some video games and watching the Golf Channel, and my phone just started blowing up and my agent sends me a text saying, 'Call me.'"
The next text, from a friend, read, "Blue Jays?" At which point, Donaldson said he thought, "Uh oh, I just got traded, didn't I?"
Donaldson was thought to be one of Billy Beane's few untouchables this winter, but the A's general manager has surprised before. Just this year, he's pulled off three blockbusters, having also reeled in All-Star pitchers Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija in separate deals before the Trade Deadline.
Those moves were specifically made for the 2014 season, which ended in an American League Wild Card Game loss to the Royals following a second-half collapse. Donaldson's departure, though, signals a change in direction of this club's future, with at least a partial rebuild in store, despite last week's $30 million acquisition of Billy Butler.
Beane said on a conference call that he was adamant about not entertaining trade discussions surrounding Donaldson when Toronto came calling. But Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos proved equally persistent, ultimately piecing together the right parts to consummate a deal.
"We were going to have to be more than impressed with what they had to offer, and Alex got to that point, and that's when we made the deal," said Beane. "We wouldn't have done it unless all four of these guys were in the deal, and each guy represents sort of a need, some of them immediate."
Certainly that's the case with Lawrie, who will replace Donaldson at third base. Still just 24 years old, the infielder has proven to be oft-injured in the early going of his career, but he is thought to have a high ceiling on both sides of the ball. Lawrie hit .247 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 70 games for Toronto this season, missing most of the final three months because of injuries.
Graveman and Nolin, Beane said, are big league ready, and Graveman will compete for a spot in the A's starting rotation come spring. The added depth seemingly only fuels speculation that either Samardzija or Scott Kazmir could also be on the move this winter, as Oakland looks to continually bolster a depleted farm system.
"We wouldn't have done the deal unless it addressed now and the future, and we were able to do that," said Beane. "We lost a lot of Minor League capital in the last couple of years trying to give this current group as good a chance as we possibly could, and now looking forward, I think we also have to be cognizant of the next couple of years. This deal, in our minds, addresses a little bit of everything."
Donaldson was a fan favorite in Oakland, having transformed from Minor League catcher to an MVP-caliber third baseman in little time with the A's. The 28-year-old hit .255 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs while also finishing as a Gold Glove finalist this year, after batting .301 with an .883 OPS in 2013. During both seasons, Donaldson rivaled Mike Trout in WAR, placing fourth and eighth in the AL MVP Award race, respectively.
All the while, Donaldson's price went up.
"When we went into this winter, we had to take a look at where we are and where we're headed, and we have to keep in mind we were 11 games behind the Angels last season and it took the last day to hold off the Mariners," said Beane. "Given the losses that we have ... at some credible positions, and given our payroll, we didn't think it was possible to sort of add to the current group to make up an 11-game difference, so what we thought we had to do was do something that wasn't timid and something that hopefully got us in a position that we had a team with a chance to get better with each day as opposed to one that was maybe starting to deteriorate."
Like Donaldson, Lawrie is also arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career, but he is eligible for free agency a year earlier, in 2018.
Barreto, Beane said, is considered one of the best prospects in the Minors. MLB.com ranked him No. 2 in the 2012 international signing class, and he hasn't disappointed, most recently batting .311/.384/.481 in the Northwest League -- as an 18-year-old.
Still, the A's remain without a shortstop for 2015. Beane made clear it won't come from the free-agent market, leaving open the possibility of another trade. On Friday, he proved he may just be getting started.
"Billy and I have a lot of respect for each other," said Donaldson. "As much as the A's play for the present, they definitely look to the future as well as any team in the league, and they felt like this is a deal they couldn't pass up.
"At the end of the day, nobody is untouchable. I definitely thought this was ahead of schedule that I was thinking as far as being traded. But I don't call the shots. The person who calls the shots is Billy, and Billy felt like he had a deal he really liked, so he pulled the trigger. Oakland was my home, even though I wasn't drafted by them. I tried to lay it all out on the line for them and give it all I had, so it's going to be tough to move on, but this is a business and I'm going to have to."
Donaldson thanked A's fans via Twitter, writing: "To the fans of Oakland: thank you for all the memories on and off the field I truly am blessed to have been a part of it. We have had a lot of great memories together and the memories I will have will always hold a special place for me. Everyday I wore that uniform with pride,and gave you all that I could. Thank you again!!"
Barreto: After a long history of success in amateur tournaments, Barreto was ranked No. 2 in the 2012 international signing class by MLB.com. He quickly adjusted to the Minor Leagues, debuting the next year as a 17-year old in the Gulf Coast League and advancing to the Northwest League this year. Barreto led the league in runs (65) and RBIs (61) and ranked in the top 10 in the circuit in all three triple-slash categories (.311/.384/.481). Barreto has an exceptional feel for hitting. His quick hands and compact swing allow him to barrel up balls well and he packs surprising power into his 5-foot-9, 174-pound frame. Barreto has played shortstop exclusively as a professional, but many scouts think he will eventually move to second base or the outfield.
Graveman: In a little more than a year, Graveman pitched his way from Mississippi State to Toronto. He shot through the Minor Leagues after the Blue Jays selected him in the eighth round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, appearing at four levels in 2014 before making his Major League debut in September. Along the way, Graveman posted a 1.83 ERA and a 1.034 WHIP in 167 1/3 innings. He creates plenty of groundouts thanks to the sinking action on his low-90s fastball. Graveman added a cutter to his arsenal this season and it quickly became an above-average offering. His stuff and pitchability make him a good fit for either the back of the rotation or the bullpen.
Nolin: After making his Major League debut in 2013, Nolin returned to Triple-A to start this season. A groin injury interrupted an otherwise solid season and prevented him from getting back to Toronto until September. Nolin made up some of his lost innings in the Arizona Fall League, where he struck out 24 batters and walked six in 22 1/3 innings. He isn't an overpowering lefty, but his stuff plays up thanks to his control and feel for pitching. Listed at 6-foot-4, Nolin uses his height to create a sharp downhill angle. He throws his fastball around 90 mph and mixes it with a changeup, curveball and slider. Nolin is close to being ready for a spot in a Major League rotation.
-- Teddy Cahill