There Goes the Rain: Oakland A’s Third Baseman Josh Donaldson Traded


It’s pretty clear that Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane loves shopping. Black Friday proved no different, as the never-stop-dealing Beane shipped All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays for middle infielder Brett Lawrie, shortstop Franklin Barreto and pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin.

A’s fans everywhere are left scratching their heads. It doesn’t make sense. Donaldson has been the best player on the A’s for the past two seasons, finishing fourth and eighth in American League Most Valuable Player voting in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Instead of seeing him continue to develop in Oakland, Donaldson becomes the latest chapter in what now should be called the “Oakland Way.” The Oakland Way is trading a player at the zenith of his value for players at their nadir or own plenty of upside.

More from Oakland Athletics

There’s no denying that Donaldson was going to get pricey. Players of Donaldson’s caliber don’t give teams like Oakland a massive discount. There’s also no denying that his time in Oakland was eventually going to run out.

Nobody could have seen it happening now, especially since the A’s were so adamant about not dealing Donaldson.

This is how Beane operates, however, and this is the third huge deal he’s pulled the trigger on in the past 12 months. Yet this one is the hardest to justify. Donaldson was easily the most important player on the A’s the past two seasons, and Josh Reddick echoed what many fans are thinking as they read the reports.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Reddick told Susan Sussler of the San Francisco Chronicle. “We traded our best player the past two years. It seems like we’re going into a rebuilding drive.”

The A’s, however, received a nice haul from the Blue Jays for Donaldson.

Lawrie comes to Oakland with the same high-ceiling, but injury-prone talent. Lawrie is a career .265 hitter with 43 career home runs and 157 RBI. He’s also four-years younger than Donaldson, for what it’s worth, and was also considered to be the Blue Jays’ untouchable Major Leaguer.

So much for that notion, right?

But there’s more to the deal.

Barreto is the top-level prospect that comes to the Oakland farm system. At 17 years old, Barreto is what the A’s need in their system – a long-term prospect or trade piece – that can give people something to look forward to in the future.

If you want to know more about him, Jays Journal’s Michael Wray wrote this about Barreto earlier this year:

"“The risk for Barreto remains high but probably a bit less so than your average 17-year-old kid with a short-season resume. He’s strong as an ox and fairly developed for a young player, which should serve him well as he continues to move up the ranks. He might end up closer to his floor as a utility infielder than his ceiling as a perennial All-Star but his combination of strength, athleticism and hitting ability could very well make him a Top 100 prospect in the future. Expect to see him in the majors by 2018.”"

OK, so it might be a while before Barreto suits up for Oakland. But he’s the prospect the A’s had to receive in this deal.

Toss in Graveman and Nolin, who add depth to the A’s pitching system, and it’s the type of haul that would come for a player Donaldson’s caliber.

None of that softens the blow that the Bringer of Rain is now longer in Oakland. Donaldson was an extremely likable player and fans appreciated his hustle plays (See: Tarp Catch).

“It’s sad any time you see your best player go, not just as a player but as a person,” Reddick said to Slusser. “And he’s our three-hole hitter and best defensive player. He was big for our team.”

So what does this mean for the A’s? Well, it’s hard to say. Beane probably isn’t done wheeling and dealing. If he does decide to move Jeff Samardzija, then it might be a complete rebuild with an 81-81 record in the horizon depending on what he receives for the Shark.

Just like Black Friday kicks off the annual holiday shopping madness, Friday’s deal kicked off something else: Billy Beane’s rebuild.