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Today in Blue Jays History: The Jays Trade for Donaldson

And the Jays sign B.J. Ryan and Kevin Gausman

MLB: SEP 04 Blue Jays at Rays Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nine 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. Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman, and Sean Nolin are heading to the A’s, 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 repeatedly. By trading away three top 12 prospects and 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 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 got a total of 52.2 MLB innings from Julian Merryweather. We lost him to the Cubs off waivers before the 2023 season. He pitched 72 innings for them in 2023 with a 3.38 ERA.

Josh played 16 games for Cleveland. Then played for the Braves in 2019. He followed that with two seasons with the Twins and then played for the Yankees in 2022.

Since 2019, Josh has played 450 games, hitting .242/.350/.460 with 84 home runs. This year, he didn’t have a great time with the Yankees, hitting .222/.308/.374 with 15 home runs.

Josh owns the 7th and 8th best seasons in the Jays’ history by bWAR. He is 13th on our all-time list for bWAR among position players and 16th in home runs (Teoscar Hernandez passed him this year).

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 who could be 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.
  • 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. Kendall played out the first season of his three-year contract with the White Sox in 2022. He had a 3.18 ERA in 65 games. In 2023, he split time between the White Sox and Astros, with a 3.12 ERA and 8 saves.
  • Franklin Barreto was the prize piece for the A’s. He still hasn’t established himself as a major-league player. He’s played 101 MLB games, mainly with the A’s, and 6 with the Angels in 2020. In 2022 and 2023, he played in the Astros’ and Nationals’ systems, but his bat has disappeared.

I was irritated when, during the season after the trade, The Sporting News ranked Billy Bean as the best GM in baseball and Alex Anthopoulos as the worst. I shouldn’t have 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.

18 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.

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 and 69 walks and had 160 strikeouts. When he could play, he was good but didn’t play enough.

The Jays were going for it in the 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 didn’t work as well as we hoped. 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 trade day, but BBB wouldn’t open up shop for another week. But when it did, Richard Wade wrote:

Turning to Ryan’s deal, I need help getting past the decision to give a five-year deal to a reliever. To avoid getting overly pessimistic, 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.

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.

Two Years Ago

The Jays signed Kevin Gausman to a five-year, $110 million contract.

Two years into the contract, he is 24-19 with a 3.25 ERA in 62 starts and 359.2 innings. Baseball Reference has him at a 6.4 WAR. FanGraphs liked the two seasons much better, having him at an 11.0 WAR.

We liked the deal. And we were right.