Blue Jays: Evaluating the Donaldson/Lawrie trade

Feb 28, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) bats during practice at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) bats during practice at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

Two seasons ago, the Blue Jays sent a talented package of players to the Oakland A’s in order to acquire third baseman, Josh Donaldson. A lot has happened since for the players involved in the deal, and so far, the Blue Jays have won the trade without much dispute.

Back on Nov 28th, 2014, the Blue Jays acquired the eventual 2015 MVP, Josh Donaldson, from the Oakland A’s for a 4 player package. At the time, many fans were split on their opinion of the deal because the Blue Jays gave up a talented group of players in order to make the trade happen.

The package was highlighted by Canadian, Brett Lawrie, who had played with the Jays from 2011-2014. It also included pitchers Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and shortstop Franklin Barretto, a solid haul for the A’s for their star third baseman.

Of course, Donaldson even exceeded the lofty expectations he arrived with, winning the 2015 AL MVP with 41 home runs and an AL leading 123 RBI. He was on a similar course in 2016 before battling injury down the stretch and falling out of heavy MVP consideration. The Blue Jays have done well on their end.

For the A’s, the picture isn’t totally complete yet, so it’s possible this deal could still work out well for Billy Beane and company. At the moment, it looks like a major misstep.

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Lawrie had a decent season in Oakland in 2015, slashing .260/.299/.407 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI in 149 games. However, the A’s clearly didn’t see the same upside that Lawrie the league with, and shipped him to the Chicago White Sox prior to last season in exchange for two minor league arms. He has yet to live up to the hype that he burst into the league with in 2011, and he’d fallen enough in the eyes of the White Sox to earn an outright release. Not exactly a great sign for the 6 year player.

Graveman has had the most success thus far, earning his way into the A’s rotation and becoming a valued innings eater. He finished last season 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA over 186.1 innings pitched. Entering his age 26 season, Graveman may still have some room to grow, but at this point he looks like a serviceable mid-back end rotation option. While that’s valuable, the A’s will need more from the rest of the trade to even things out.

Nolin made 6 starts with the A’s in 2015, pitching to a 5.28 ERA over 29 innings pitched. Unfortunately for both Nolin and the A’s, he injured his elbow and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. He did not make an appearance in 2016, and isn’t expected to throw any time soon. Hopefully he’ll be able to recover and reach his potential, but at this point his prospect status has certainly taken a hit.

The saving grace for the A’s may be talented shortstop Franklin Barretto. Entering his age 21 season, Barretto hit .284/.342/.422 across 123 games in AA and AAA. He also started to show a bit of pop, producing 11 home runs and 53 RBI. He’s also highly regarded for his defence, and looks like he’ll be able to stick at shortstop at the big league level, once he arrives.

Having started his professional career at just 17 years old, Barretto has a lot of time and ceiling left before his value will be determined. It’s very likely that the success of failure of his career will determine just how bad the A’s made out in the 2014 trade.

Next: Blue Jays: How much will Josh Donaldson cost?

For the Blue Jays, it really couldn’t have worked out much better. At the time, there were folks that were pretty upset about losing Lawrie and the package of youngsters. Fast forward two years later, and Lawrie is available again, and likely very cheap, should the Blue Jays choose to pursue him.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t expect the Blue Jays to win the trade by as wide of a margin as they have. Barretto and the pitching duo may still change that, but it appears this is one trade the Jays indisputably won.