It's the offseason, which means it's time for Billy Beane to make a bunch of trades that confuse the heck out of everybody in the baseball community and this is one of those deals for sure. Ken Rosenthal reports that the Athletics have dealt star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for their third baseman Brett Lawrie and three prospects: right handed pitcher Kendall Graveman, shortstop Franklin Barreto, and left handed pitcher Sean Nolin.
The big piece of the deal is clearly the 28-year-old Donaldson, who hit a combined .277/.363/.477 for Oakland and crushed 24 and 29 home runs respectively in 2013 and 2014. Along with that offensive prowess, Donaldson is well known for his glove at third and was well above average defensively by both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved. Overall, both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference wins above replacement have graded him out to be somewhere between a 6 to 8 win player in each of the last two seasons and he's also received MVP votes, finishing in 4th place in 2013 and 8th place in 2014. He also made his first All-Star game appearance in 2014.
Meanwhile, heading back to Oakland is the four part package led by third baseman Brett Lawrie. Just 24 years old, Lawrie has shown ability offensively and defensively but has never been able to put together a full season as Toronto's starting third baseman due to a number of injuries. A career .265/.323/.426 hitter with burgeoning power, Lawrie has a shot to improve provided he can stay on the field. Pitchers Graveman and Nolin both have very limited big league experience but each has had success at Triple-A, meaning they'll add to Oakland's stable of quality starting pitching depth in 2015. The shortstop Barreto is a little further away at age 18 but appears ticketed for full season ball after beating up on the short season Northwest League in 2014. He's a toolsy, high-ceiling shortstop prospect who, down the road, could potentially make up for the loss of Addison Russell in Oakland. Nolin and Barreto ranked #5 and #6 respectively on John Sickels' Blue Jays top 20 prospect list last offseason.
The strangest part of the deal may be that the A's are actually giving up a year of service time by dealing Donaldson for Lawrie. Despite being four years younger, Lawrie has more service time than Donaldson and can become a free agent a year earlier. Both players are first year arbitration eligible this winter but as a Super Two, Donaldson is likely to make a lot more money thanks to his superior performance.