The Athletics' trade of Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays (for infielder Brett Lawrie, shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto, and a couple of low-wattage pitching prospects in Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman) went down last night. But I thought it would be worthwhile to have a dedicated thread for it, because it's an interesting move, especially for fans of a low-payroll team like ours.
Most commentators seem to feel the A's got the short end of the stick here, but it's possible that Lawrie stays healthy, Barreto emerges as a top prospect, and Nolin and Graveman do better than expected with the Athletics' defense behind them. What's especially compelling here, though, is Billy Beane's reasoning for the deal:
"When we went into this winter, we had to take a look at where we are and where we're headed, and we have to keep in mind we were 11 games behind the Angels last season and it took the last day to hold off the Mariners," said Beane. "Given the losses that we have ... at some credible positions, and given our payroll, we didn't think it was possible to sort of add to the current group to make up an 11-game difference, so what we thought we had to do was do something that wasn't timid and something that hopefully got us in a position that we had a team with a chance to get better with each day as opposed to one that was maybe starting to deteriorate."
The A's were already facing the losses of Jon Lester, Luke Gregerson and Jed Lowrie. Donaldson was the Athletics' best player, and as a Pirates fan it would terrify me if the Bucs traded Andrew McCutchen, or even someone like Starling Marte, at this point, or a year from now. Fortunately, they shouldn't have to. The A's didn't have an outstanding farm system to begin with and traded a great prospect (Addison Russell) and a good one (Billy McKinney) when they made their all-in trade for Jeff Samardzija (who they're now reportedly trying to flip) last summer. The Pirates have a very good farm system, so they should be able to sustain themselves for awhile without holding fire sales.
But as a fan of a small-payroll team, I can't help but feel for A's fans, and I can't help but imagine scenarios in which the Pirates have to make similarly aggressive moves to rebuild. Maybe 2015 or 2016 won't go as well as we hope, and McCutchen will end up on the block. Probably not, but I'd hate to be in a position of wondering whether it's best to trade a superstar for young talent in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve, or to take a Brewers-like approach of clinging to the aging core of a .500 team. Let's all be thankful that's not where the Pirates are right now.