Donaldson doesn’t blame A’s for trade
OAKLAND, Calif. — All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson said he always felt there was a chance he’d be traded by the A’s … someday.
But he was stunned to be traded Friday to Toronto in a four-for-one deal that sees the A’s getting third baseman Brett Lawrie, right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman, left-handed pitcher Sean Nolin and Class-A shortstop Franklin Barreto.
“Eventually, this would happen; the A’s are a very smart organization,” Donaldson said moments after A’s general manager Billy Beane called him with the news.
“They felt that eventually the dollar value I would bring if I were to go on having this level of success, it would reach a substantial number.
“That being said, I don’t think Billy would mind me saying this, he got a deal he could not pass up. As always, he’s looking to the future.”
Beane probably is not finished for the offseason with baseball’s winter meetings just over a week away. Sources tell this newspaper the A’s are exploring a deal with the Braves that could net either outfielder Justin Upton and/or catcher Evan Gattis. To get them, Beane might be willing to trade starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
Beane had classified Donaldson, 28, as untouchable heading into the offseason after a year in which the third baseman hit .255 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs. But Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos apparently wanted Donaldson in a big way, leading to the deal.
“We wouldn’t have done the deal unless they were addressing the now and the future,” Beane said. He’d said earlier in the offseason that Donaldson was untradeable “unless we get a perfect deal.”
“We’ve spent a lot of minor league capital the last couple of years, and we’ve given (the current team) their chance,” Beane said. “We have to be cognizant of the next couple of years.”
Beane sees Lawrie, just 24, as moving into the slot at third base and Graveman and Nolin as likely members of the 2015 pitching staff. Barreto, just 18, is a future project, but the A’s see him as one of the best young shortstops in the game.
“Talks got serious the last 48 hours,” Beane said. “They were reluctant to give up all four, but we wouldn’t make the trade without all four. Ultimately they decided they would give up the four.”
Beane talked about the need to look at the future, but Donaldson said the A’s present looked good to him before the trade, and after the trade, too.
“I felt with the addition of Billy Butler and a nice left-handed lineup and two good young pitchers (Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin) coming back from Tommy John surgery, we could fill in for the losses of (Jon) Lester and (Jason) Hammel,” Donaldson said with more than a hint of wistfulness in his voice.
“At the end of the day, I still feel Oakland will contend. They are winners. I hope they keep the same mentality and play the way they always play, and they’ll compete well.”
Beane, looking at a team that dominated major league baseball for the first half of the season but wound up needing to win on the season’s final day to get into the A.L. wild-card game, signed Butler to add right-handed sock. They lose pop with Donaldson’s departure, although Lowrie has shown some power (43 homers in four years) at a young age.
With Donaldson gone, the A’s will go forward without someone who has been important to their team chemistry.
“When you talk about trading a Josh Donaldson, it’s similar to the club losing Yoenis Cespedes,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “But at the same time, you have to be excited about what we’re getting back and the lineup we’re going to have.”
Lawrie, limited to 70 games in 2014, is a good defensive player with the ability to hit for average and some power when healthy. Injuries, including an oblique in 2014, have been a problem, although Beane said Lawrie should be fine come spring training. Lawrie hit .247 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 259 at-bats in 2014. He’s a career .265 hitter.
Graveman, 23, rocketed through the Blue Jays system this year, starting at Class-A, but winding up at Triple-A Buffalo where he had a 1.88 ERA in six starts, walking just five and striking out 22 in 38 1/3 innings. He was 12-6 for the season with a 2.10 ERA. He got a bit of a look with the Jays, throwing 4 2/3 innings (two earned runs) in five games.
Nolin, 24, who has one big league game to his credit in each of the last two seasons, was 4-6 with a 3.50 ERA after being elevated to Buffalo this year. He can touch 95 mph with his fastball, although he generally sits at 92-93, and he has two speeds on his curve, one in the mid-70s range and another in the low 60s.