Holy crap. What is going on in Oakland?
The Athletics have cleaned house this winter. They moved Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox. They sent Brandon Moss to Cleveland. They shipped Derek Norris to the Padres.
…but that wasn’t the biggest move of the bunch.
I’ll be the first to say that I think Billy Beane is a genius who should never be questioned, but it’s not every day that a genius trades away his best player for an oft-injured young third baseman and a handful of prospects.
Yet, that’s exactly what Beane did with third baseman Josh Donaldson back in November.
Over the past two years, Donaldson has put up a .277/.363/.477 batting line with 68 doubles, 53 home runs, and 191 RBI. His potent offense is coupled with top-notch defense thanks to an incredible glove and tremendous range at the hot corner.
Not only was Donaldson the Oakland Athletics best player, but he was second only to the best position player in all of baseball and reigning American League MVP, Mike Trout in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 7.42.
Yes, we’ve all seen Billy Beane do some of what we would like to call “absurd” moves in his time as the General Manager of the A’s. The thing about these moves is that they always seem to work out in his favor in the end. I must repeat, Billy Beane is better at GM’ing than you and I.
The Josh Donaldson trade might have been crazy to our standards because – obviously – the dude could rake, field, and led the A’s to division titles, but it was also a necessary move. Despite all of that talent, Donaldson wasn’t long for the Athletics.
Oakland is an organization that operates with many financial restrictions and after going all-in, and failing, last season. They needed to regroup. Donaldson is 29-years-old and was set to make a large amount of money in his first year of arbitration, an amount of money that would have priced him out of the A’s long-term plans.
Beane needed to do some drastic and he did just that.
The haul for Donaldson includes a former prized prospect in Brett Lawrie, who has shown all the ability in the world offensively and defensively, but has never been able to put together a full season due to injury.
Lawrie is only 24-years-old and under team control for three more seasons, so it’s possible getting off the turf in Toronto could help him stay healthy, and productive, moving forward.
The Athletics also received a pair of minor league pitchers who could both reach the big leagues next year, in Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman.
The kicker, however, is likely shortstop Franklin Barreto. He is believed by many to be “the guy” tabbed to replace Addison Russell who was moved to the Cubs last summer for Samardzija and Jason Hammel as part of the A’s “going for it” attempt.
In the short-term, the Blue Jays are clearly the better team as a result of the trade. They added one of the best third basemen in the game and the Athletics took on an oft-injured former prospect and a handful of kids who may or may not live up to their hype.
…but Billy Beane has a plan; and these “crazy” moves aren’t that crazy.
Beane learned a long time ago, that he had to run a small market team a certain way to keep performing, winning ball games, and capturing AL West Division crowns.
His knowledge in advanced statistics is second to none, and he should easily have, at the very least, a World Series appearance under his already stellar resume. He hasn’t gotten it yet, but this move may have laid the ground work for it a little ways down the road.
The Oakland Athletics sold out on the 2015 season – sorry Oakland fans – but they’re buying in on a much brighter future.