Trading prospects can be a scary proposition, but looking back at the Josh Donaldson trade with Oakland, it worked out well for the Blue Jays with that 2014 trade.
Today marks the 5th anniversary of the big trade between the Blue Jays and Oakland A’s that brought a future AL MVP to Toronto. The Blue Jays acquired Donaldson in exchange for four players, including Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Franklin Barreto.
The trade was a bit of a shock at the time, mostly because Donaldson still had four years of club control remaining and had received MVP votes in 2013 and 2014 while in Oakland. He was a late-bloomer of sorts, but it was clear that he was a star, and one that took another step after arriving in Toronto.
At the time it looked like the Blue Jays gave up an awful lot to get him, but it was understood and supported because of the calibre of player that joined Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to help terrorize AL lineups. Now that we’re five years removed from the day of the trade, we have a lot better idea of how well the Blue Jays made out in the blockbuster swap.
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There’s probably a case that this was Alex Anthopoulos’ finest move as the GM of the Blue Jays.
If you’re reading this I’m going to assume that you’re familiar with Donaldson’s dominance while wearing a Blue Jays uniform, and if not, have a look at his numbers courtesy of baseballreference.com. What’s more interesting five years later is assessing how the A’s made out with their side of the deal.
Starting with Lawrie, unfortunately his career never reached the heights that he always seemed destined for. He played just one season in Oakland and slashed .260/.299/.407 in 149 games, mostly disappointing his new employer. They ended up flipping him to the Chicago White Sox after that one season, receiving a couple of lower-level pitching prospects in return.
As for the prospects that came with Lawrie, they haven’t exactly worked out for the A’s either. Graveman was a solid rotation option who made 71 starts from 2015-2017, but injuries have really derailed his career since, and he’s no longer in Oakland. Nolin made six starts for the A’s in 2015 with bit of a harsh introduction to MLB baseball, and he hasn’t been seen in the big leagues since.
Barreto was arguably the prize of the trade for Oakland, but he was only 18 years old at the time of the deal. Unfortunately his career has yet to pan out at the highest level either. He’s a career .189/.220/.378 hitter across 80 games from 2017-19, so he’ll need to make some significant improvements before he’ll earn a full-time job in the big leagues. That said, he’s still only 23 years old, so it’s not too late for him to become a solid contributor.
For those that like their proof with a side of numbers, here are the bWAR stats for what the Blue Jays got from Donaldson, and what the A’s received from the four players on their side of the swap.
Donaldson- 21.6 bWAR
Graveman- 5.3 bWAR
Lawrie- 2.2 bWAR
Barreto- -0.7 bWAR
Nolin- -0.3 bWAR
Total= 6.5 bWAR
Naturally there are always risks when you trade prospects or talented young players, but in the case of the Josh Donaldson acquisition, it couldn’t have worked out a whole lot better for the Blue Jays.