It was the trade which changed everything for two franchises. When the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Josh Donaldson back on November 28th 2014, it altered course for both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Oakland Athletics, but in two very different ways.
For the Blue Jays, bringing Donaldson aboard propelled them towards their first playoff appearance in 22 years. For the A’s, the Donaldson deal was merely the cherry on top of a devastating 2014 season.
There isn’t a day that goes by where Blue Jays fans aren’t thankful for the Josh Donaldson trade. Conversely, there likely isn’t a day where Athletics fans don’t regret dealing away one of the top five hitters in the American League.
I wondered how the other side felt about this transaction, so I reached out to Alex Hall from Athletics Nation to get his thoughts on the Josh Donaldson deal, some two-and-a-half years later. He definitely did not mince words about the A’s trading their perennial MVP.
A’s Fans Loathe the Josh Donaldson Trade
By: Alex Hall – Athletics Nation
There are no two ways about it — Oakland A’s fans loathe the Josh Donaldson trade. No one liked it when it happened, and it hasn’t gotten any better since. He was a fan favorite and our biggest star, and we’ve watched him win an MVP for another team while our own squad flounders.
I find myself to be one of the least harsh detractors of the deal, so perhaps by explaining how I see it you can get an idea of the nicest things an A’s fan could possibly say about it.
I didn’t have a problem with the general concept of trading Donaldson — this is what the A’s we’re talking about, after all, so it was inevitable. But I thought they did it a year too early.
He wasn’t showing signs of slowing down so there was no need to urgently sell high, and he had plenty of team control left so he wasn’t becoming cost-prohibitive. There was simply no rush unless they got a deal they couldn’t refuse, and that’s not what they received.
As time has gone on, though, a grim set of sour grapes has revealed itself. The fact is, it wouldn’t have mattered if Donaldson had been in Oakland post-2014. The A’s have been so bad that even adding an MVP-caliber position player wouldn’t have moved the needle much.
Their bullpen abandoned them in 2015 and their rotation followed suit last year, and there was nothing within reason that the lineup could have done to stop it. And, no offense intended, but he didn’t win a championship with his new super-team in Toronto either.
So it was for the best that they traded him as early as possible and optimized his value, right? Not quite, because they botched the trade strategy.
The moment the A’s decided to dump Donaldson and three other All-Stars from a team that had barely made the postseason, they should have known the rebuild was on and should have focused on maximizing the prospect return.
Instead, the Athletics hedged and tried to rush the process, sacrificing far too much ceiling in the name of MLB-readiness, and now they’re paying the price — their farm is good but could be better and they’re still looking back on two last-place finishes.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The Donaldson trade is a stain on A’s lore, even if Barreto pans out into a star. ” quote=”The Donaldson trade is a stain on A’s lore, and it will remain that way even if Barreto pans out into a star. – Alex Hall, Athletics Nation”]
They didn’t commit to today or tomorrow and so they got the best of neither. How many more Franklin Barreto-like top prospects could they have gotten out of the Donaldson deal without Brett Lawrie in there?
And so it is what it is. The trade is a stain on A’s lore, and it will remain that way to some extent even if Barreto pans out into a star. It isn’t the reason they became cellar-dwellers and Donaldson was always going to be gone someday, but Oakland blew it by rushing into it too early and targeting the wrong things in return.
Finally, to rub BBQ sauce in the wound, all the cash they saved went toward a long-term free agent contract for Billy Butler. It wasn’t our best offseason, but there’s nothing to be done about it now. From A’s fans everywhere, to all of you in Toronto: You’re welcome!
Thanks again to Alex for providing his reaction to the Josh Donaldson trade. You can read his work over at Athletics Nation.