Something was cooking.
According to reports that are flooding in from everywhere now, the Blue Jays have traded Brett Lawrie, Sean Nolin, Kendall Graveman, and Franklin Barreto to the Oakland Athletics for Josh Donaldson.
This, folks, is seriously terrific.
Put your flaccid mapleness away for a second and look at this: 7.7 and 6.4.
Those are Donaldson’s WAR totals in each of the last two years, according to the FanGraphs version of the metric. He was first and second (by 0.2) among MLB third basemen in those years, respectively. He hit 24 and 29 home runs — playing home games in Oakland. He walks and gets on base at an above average rate, and he plays tremendous defence (UZR of 15.5 in 2014, DRS of +20). He put up a 147 wRC+ in 2013, and a 129 this year.
He is a tremendous, tremendous player.
He’s also under team control for four more years. He is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, as a Super Two, having two years and 158 days of MLB service.
Brett Lawrie is under control for a year less.
Now, also going the other way is a lot of value: Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman — nice enough depth arms, and possibly better, who will certainly look good in Oakland — and Franklin Barreto, an excellent shortstop prospect (who may not stick at the position, though reports from this season have been better than previous years) and who seems certain to hit. He’s a nice replacement for Addison Russell, who the A’s lost in the Jeff Samardzija trade, but still a ways off, at just 18 years old.
It’s a lot of talent, and a lot of years of cheap control that the Jays are giving up, but that’s the price you’ll pay for the best third baseman in baseball — y’know, if you’re lucky! And while this move could entirely blow up in their faces — Brett Lawrie can still be very, very good, as could the other pieces, especially Barreto — holy fucking awesome! For the here-and-now, this is terrific.
I know, I know, the Golden Brett. And I get the trepidation that once again the Jays are using precious resources to fill a position that they already had basically set. And the concerns that Donaldson is yet another right-handed bat (albeit one that has been very good, though less spectacular against same-sided pitching). But he’s replacing a righty bat anyway, and most importantly, he represents a huge improvement over what they got last year. He is, in fact, already the kind of player that Lawrie might be, if everything comes together perfectly for him. Maybe even better, because of the power he can bring. I’d be very surprised if Lawrie could hit 29 home runs playing half his games in the Oakland Coliseum, as Donaldson did this year. Then when you factor in the health issues that have plagued the tightly-wound Lawrie, the whole thing becomes pretty damn hard not to love.
Instead of the clinging to hope that Lawrie will stay on the field long enough, and hit well enough, to become one of the best overall third basemen in the game, the Jays now employ a player of whom that is expected, and who has repeatedly shown he is capable of it. The difference isn’t all that unlike the one between sublimely talented Colby Rasmus, and the rock solid fuck machine that is Jose Bautista.
Rasmus has the talent to be anything you could dream of on the field, provided he were capable of staying healthy and out of his own way. Bautista, on the other hand, is the fully-realized dream. And if you want to switch those names for “Lawrie” and “Donaldson,” while not a perfect parallel, I’m certainly not going to stop you.
And if, for some reason, you really want to care about all the other kinds of stuff that this might be about, there are definitely ways to make it fit right into the whole “culture change” narrative the Jays have been putting out there of late, too. In fact, Shi Davidi was on Prime Time Sports on Friday evening in Toronto and he said that the manager wanted there to be more “mature adults” in the room, and that there weren’t enough.
Exit Lind, Rasmus, Gose, and now Lawrie. Enter Martin and enter Donaldson. If you’re into the concerns about the locker room, I suppose it works. Better still, they work as baseball moves. They really, really, really work as baseball moves.
Image via Keith Allison/Flickr