So, Jeff Samardzija isn’t going anywhere — tonight, at least — but the A’s are still making big moves. Per Ken Rosenthal:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 29, 2014
This is kind of a fascinating challenge trade. Josh Donaldson and Brett Lawrie are both third baseman by trade, but Donaldson is the better player and is actually under control for one year longer. Even though he’s a Super Two player, which means he’s going to get expensive in a hurry, he offers significantly more value than Lawrie going forward.
To make up the difference, the A’s are getting 24 year old RHP Sean Nolin, 23 year old RHP Kendall Graveman, and 18 year old shortstop Franklin Barreto. Both Nolin and Graveman have already reached the big leagues and could potentially help the A’s in 2015, but it seems like Barreto might be the key to this deal for Oakland; he was an offensive monster in the Northwest League, putting up a 141 wRC+ as a teenager in a league that is primarily filled with college-age competition.
Marc Hulet had ranked Barreto 11th on the Blue Jays list a year ago despite only playing complex ball to that point, and Baseball America had him at #5 on their recent list of the Blue Jays top 10 prospects. If the A’s see Barreto as something of a replacement for Addison Russell — though with a more delayed timeline, given his youth — then perhaps the return in talent was too much to turn down the downgrade from Donaldson to Lawrie. Or perhaps they don’t see a massive downgrade there at all, given Lawrie’s advantage in youth his own rather good performances (3.4 WAR per 600 PA) when he’s been on the field.
This deal continues the Blue Jays desire to push chips into the middle on 2015, following up on their acquisition of Russell Martin. Lawrie is a talented player, but his long injury history made him difficult to depend on, and Donaldson is an immediate upgrade at third base. And since he’s under control through 2018, he’s certainly nothing like a rental. This move makes the Blue Jays immediately better, and from their perspective, the long-term risk of giving up three prospects wasn’t enough of a cost to pass up on acquiring maybe the best third baseman in baseball right now, or at least a guy who figures prominently in the discussion.
We’ll have a more full write-up on this later, but it’s certainly an interesting deal for both sides.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.