I shouldn’t be surprised anymore when stuff like that happens. But I can’t help it. When I saw the Twitter alert about Josh Donaldson being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach much like the feeling I had the night of the wild card game. This is the one thing that couldn’t possibly happen. But it did happen, in real life, and we’ve got to move forward with the reality that this is now a Josh Donaldson-less team.
Donaldson is irreplaceable. It hasn’t been very often over the last 15 years or so that the A’s have had one of the best position players in baseball on their team. Jason Giambi was that in 2000, Miguel Tejada in 2002. I don’t know that anyone else was really that guy until Josh Donaldson became that guy for the A’s in 2013 and 2014. Having a guy like that is a luxury for the A’s and I know it couldn’t last forever, but damn.
Donaldson is irreplaceable, but someone’s got to play third base for the A’s in 2015 anyway, and at the moment that looks like it will be Brett Lawrie, one of the four players acquired in trade. He’ll turn 25 in January and he’s already got four years of big league experience under his belt. He’s a solid defender and a good hitter with some power, but the big question about him is health. He’s always seemed to be nagged by injuries and the most games he’s ever played in a season is 125 in 2012. I wonder if not playing 81 home games a year on artificial turf will help him stay healthy.
The A’s also picked up a couple of young pitchers in the deal, lefty Sean Nolin and righty Kendall Graveman. Both have had brief stints in the big leagues already and it sounds as if they’ll be competing for big league jobs in spring training. Nolin especially sounds intriguing as a rotation candidate who impressed in the Arizona Fall League this year. And the fourth piece is 18-year-old shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto, who MLB.com immediately ranks as the #3 prospect in the A’s system.
As things stand now, the A’s starting pitching is still extremely deep, and you can always consider yourself in the mix when you have good pitching. But this move is a blow, not just to the lineup but to the identity of a franchise that has struggled to find an identity over the past several years, and isn’t even the most popular team in the city in which it plays. It’s definitely a sad day to be an A’s fan. We’ll move on, as we always do, but this kind of stuff doesn’t ever get easy.