Earlier this week, the Boston Red Sox made a statement by signing two of the biggest free agents on the market: Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Tonight, the Blue Jays made an equally impressive transaction by grabbing one of the best position players in baseball.
The deal is official; Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Frank Barreto going to the Oakland A’s.
My initial reaction to this trade is one of shock; Brett Lawrie seemed to be a player that the Blue Jays coveted as a franchise figurehead and projected to build around in the coming years. But after a number of injury-riddled seasons, perhaps their patience had worn thin.
Immediately, the Blue Jays upgrade at third base in nearly every way. Josh Donaldson has risen as one of the premiere third baseman in all of baseball. In his first two full seasons in Oakland, he finished third and eighth in American League MVP voting respectively.
I’m not sure if Josh Donaldson has quite earned the moniker as a “perennial MVP”, but he’s getting pretty close. Plus, anybody who models their swing after Jose Bautista has to be doing something right.
Now that I think of it, is it safe to say that Josh Donaldson has quickly developed into the player that everyone was hoping Brett Lawrie would? Injuries more or less stunted Lawrie’s development at the big league level, while Donaldson has flourished in under four years.
Incredibly, Josh Donaldson is actually under team control for one more year than Brett Lawrie; Donaldson is free agent eligible in 2019 while Brett Lawrie is free agent eligible in 2018.
Much like Russell Martin, Donaldson is revered for his defense. However, the area in which he eclipses Lawrie by bounds is his offensive ability. 2014 was a “down” year for him respectively, but Josh Donaldson still put forth a fairly solid offensive season.
That’s more which can be said about Brett Lawrie. Of course, Brett Lawrie possessed a world of talent, but unfortunately failed to put it all together over the course of a full season.
Most will remember Brett Lawrie’s 2011 whirlwind debut in which he slugged 9 home runs and amassed 2.3 WAR in just 43 games down the stretch. But unfortunately, that was invariably the peak of Lawrie’s tenure as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Akin to Colby Rasmus, there was tremendous potential with Brett Lawrie, but for one reason or another, he just couldn’t stay healthy. Many of his injuries were of the freak variety, but nonetheless his absence created a big hole in the Blue Jays’ lineup.
Many likely envisioned Brett Lawrie as a Gold Glove calibre defender with the potential to become an All-Star, and perhaps even an MVP candidate down the road. Except Josh Donaldson has already accomplished all those things in the same duration as Brett Lawrie.
By comparison, over four seasons Josh Donaldson missed a total of six games due to injury. Brett Lawrie on the other hand missed a total of 185 games. That’s over an entire season’s worth of games played difference between two played … which is incredible to me.
This trade can best be summarized as quantity for quality; Josh Donaldson is one of the best players in the American League, but Brett Lawrie may be a diamond in the rough who may finally blossom into the third baseman most expect him to be.
The three other prospects in the deal (Nolin, Graveman, Barreto) may in fact turn out to be solid Major Leaguers, but as with any prospects, they’re essentially lottery tickets. And the Blue Jays parlayed them along with Lawrie into tangible Major League talent at third base.
Aside from Brett Lawrie, the Blue Jays didn’t have to deal any everyday big league talent off the roster. Pitching is definitely one area of surplus for the Blue Jays, so the fact that they didn’t have to part with one of Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez or Daniel Norris to get Josh Donaldson is quite astounding.
As if the Russell Martin signing wasn’t a sign the Blue Jays weren’t going for it in 2015, the Josh Donaldson/Brett Lawrie trade definitely is.
Make no mistake; Alex Anthopoulos isn’t messing around. This trade is a clear signal of the Blue Jays’ commitment to the immediate success of the club. It may come back to affect the team in the long term, but who cares if that improves the team tremendously in the short term?
So bring on the rain.