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Today in Blue Jays History: The Donaldson Trade

League Championship - Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Three Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Seven years ago

The Jays made a trade for Josh Donaldson. Scott wrote:

If you’re reading this, you most certainly know about the trade that became official a short time ago between the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics. Heading to the A’s are Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman, and Sean Nolin, while the Blue Jays receive All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson in return. The trade is yet another sign that Alex Anthopoulos and company are very serious about going all-in for the next few seasons and have had enough of building up solid farm systems to come up short time and time again. By trading away essentially three top 12 prospects as well as the former Canadian third baseman of the future, Anthopoulos has risked his job and a large part of the franchise’s fate on this trade and the Russell Martin signing earlier this month.

Please Jays, give us some news like this to write about this winter.

We liked the trade:

It was a big win for us.

Donaldson played four seasons for us, hitting .281/.383/.548 with 116 home runs. He won an MVP, made it to the playoff twice and had an unfortunate last season with us, injured and then traded in haste at the deadline.

We’ve had a total of 26 MLB innings from Julian Merryweather.

Josh owns the 7th and 8th best seasons in Jays’ history by bWAR. He is 13th on our all-time list for bWAR among position players and 15th in home runs (Teoscar Hernandez is likely to pass him in home runs this season).

Josh is a Twin now and is signed through 2024.

The players that went to Oakland:

  • Brett Lawrie had a pretty average season (.260/.299/.407), and they traded him to the White Sox for a couple of guys that could be sort of mistaken for prospects if you squinted. He was signed to a minor-league deal by the Brewers in 2019, and they told us he would work his way into playing shape and then play some minor league games. They released him without Brett even playing in the minors. I’d think his baseball career is over.
  • Sean Nolan made six starts for the A’s and was lost on waivers to the Brewers, back in 2015. In 2021, he made it back to the majors, making ten appearances for the Nationals, 5 starts and 5 games from the pen, with a 4.39 ERA.
  • Kendall Graveman has become a good reliever. He made 78 starts, over the 4 seasons for the A’s, and has a 4.38 and a 23-29 record. He’s played with the Mariners and Astros the last two seasons. He signed a three-year contract with the White Sox just a few days ago.
  • Franklin Barreto was the prize piece for the A’s. He still hasn’t established himself as a major leaguer. He’s played 101 MLB games, mainly with the A’s, and 6 with the Angels in 2020. He is a free agent at the moment.

I was irritated when, during the season after the trade, The Sporting News ranked Billy Bean the best GM in baseball and Alex Anthopoulos the worst. I know I shouldn’t let those things bug me, but it did.

It was a terrific trade. I’m not sure how Alex pulled it off. I can’t imagine we would have had the two playoff seasons without Josh. He was a lot of fun to watch. It is too bad his time with the Jays ended the way it did.

16 Years Ago

The Blue Jays signed B.J. Ryan to a five-year, $47 million contract. For the $47 million, we got one excellent season (2006: 38 saves, 1.37 ERA), one season cut short by injury (2007), one good season (2008: 32 saves, 2.95), one awful season (2009: 2 saves, 6.53) and one season sitting at home (2010). And that was the end of his MLB career.

In total, he had a 2.95 ERA in 155 games with 75 saves for the Blue Jays $47 million. In 155.1 innings, he allowed 117 hits, 69 walks, and had 160 strikeouts. When he could play, he was good, but he didn’t play enough.

The Jays were going for it in build-up for the 2006 season. We added Bengie Molina, Lyle Overbay, Troy Glaus, and A.J. Burnett, adding a fair bit to our payroll. It sort of worked. We went from 80-82, in 2005, to 87-75, in 2006. But we still finished ten games back from the Yankees, which in the pre-Wild Card days, second place wasn’t good enough.

I’d love to link to the Bluebird Banter story from the day of the trade, but BBB didn’t wouldn’t open up shop for another week or so. But when it did, Richard Wade wrote:

Turning to Ryan’s deal, I have a hard time getting past the decision to give a five-year deal to a reliever. To avoid getting overly negative, we’ll focus purely on what Ryan provides on the field rather than what he costs off of it.

So you could say he wasn’t thrilled.

At Batter’s Box ‘Pistol’ wrote:

Given that Ryan has no real injury history and has had a relatively light workload over his career (381 innings) I don’t think the risk involved with a 5-year contract is as worrisome as it might appear at first.

Well, the unfortunate thing is, when you sign a pitcher to a 5-year contract when he is on the wrong side of 30, injury history or not, bad things are likely to happen.

As it turned out, it was way too much money for a relief pitcher. JP really should have known better. It is easy to say with hindsight, but long-term contracts for relievers rarely work out. The Ryan contract wasn’t the death of the huge deals for ageing closers, but it became a cautionary tale.