The trade that brought Josh Donaldson is widely thought of as one of the best trades in Blue Jays history. That trade laid the foundation for the teams that got to the ALCS two years in a row, with Donaldson serving as the leader of both teams.
We know now that the Josh Donaldson trade was one of the greatest things to happen to the Jays in the past few years. Then-GM Alex Anthopoulos took a risk by acquiring someone who had a couple good years, but no big breakout years, for a package of promising prospects. While we know that the trade was great, it’s always interesting to see what would happen if the trade never happened.
What actually happened:
Oakland trades: Josh Donaldson, 3B
What if this trade never happened…
In November of 2014, the Blue Jays try to acquire the rapidly rising third baseman Josh Donaldson from Oakland. But because of the price, Toronto doesn’t take the deal and Donaldson remains with the A’s.
In 2015, the Blue Jays roll with a starting lineup of Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar, Dalton Pompey, and Edwin Encarnacion. With two sluggers, they do alright, but Lawrie and Pompey look overmatched. This causes the Jays to give Chris Colabello and Ryan Goins more playing time.
Colabello performs admirably, but Goins shows that he needs more development time, by only hitting .250 with four home runs and 45 RBIs. The Jays consider trading Lawrie, but can’t find any takers, after he hits .260 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs.
Meanwhile, Kendall Graveman gets the fifth man rotation spot over Daniel Norris, but then gets traded along with Matt Boyd for David Price. The Jays make this trade knowing Norris, along with Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman will create a core of pitchers that will anchor Toronto.
Toronto gets to the ALDS, but without a true leader to rally the team, they fall to the Rangers in four games, after falling behind 2-0. The team takes a morale hit afterward. The Jays don’t re-sign Price because they have Norris waiting in the wings.
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In 2016, Stroman, and Sanchez come up to pitch in the rotation full time. Norris is put in the bullpen, to give the Jays another lefty reliever who can shut down the opponent. With Brett Cecil getting time as the seventh inning/lefty specialist, and Drew Storen playing badly, Norris is given the opportunity to become the set-up man.
After they do that, they consider trading for reinforcements but decide to give Norris a chance. Norris doesn’t fit well with the set-up man role, so the Jays bump him down into the same role as Cecil and move Joe Biagini to the set-up man role.
The Jays make the 2016 playoffs, but this time only in the wild card game. They face Baltimore, and win on a walk off by Encarnacion. This was made possible by the great bullpen trio of Norris, Biagini, and Osuna. In the ALDS, they face Texas again, but this game they win in four games. After facing Cleveland in the ALCS and losing, Toronto decides whether they want to make a big move or not. They decide to release Lawrie after a dismal season, and start Goins at third.
Barreto was kept in the minors through 2017, while Nolin was brought up as an injury fill in during 2015, but didn’t play in the MLB since then.
Well, that didn’t work out well, did it? It’s a good thing the Jays made that trade. Not only did they get an MVP, they got a player to lead them through good and rough times, like the 2-0 series hole against Texas.