The Toronto Blue Jays just acquired one of the best players in baseball. They obtained All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson from the A’s for fellow infielder Brett Lawrie and a trio of prospects, including starting pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, both of whom cracked the majors in 2014, and teenage shortstop Franklin Barreto. The trade is a shocker that effectively signals a rebuild on the part of the A’s, as Donaldson, an elite defensive third baseman with power and patience at the plate, has been their best player over the last two years. As for Toronto, the trade is further evidence that the Blue Jays are determined to seize what they see as a window of opportunity in the AL East.
It’s not impossible to see why the A’s made Donaldson available. He’ll turn 29 in early December and is due for a huge raise in arbitration, which he is eligible for the first time this winter. Those seem like minor points compared to his value on the field, however. Arguably the best fielding third baseman in baseball other than Manny Machado (that's if Machado can sustain his performance with his surgically repaired knees), Donaldson has hit 53 home runs with a .200 isolated slugging over the last two years despite playing his home games in Oakland’s cavernous Coliseum. He also has drawn 145 unintentional walks over the last two seasons for a combined .277/.363/.477 line, which translates to a 135 OPS+ after correcting for his home ballpark.