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Brett Lawrie Rumors
The Athletics’ trade of third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays last night came as a surprise, but A’s GM Billy Beane explains he felt he had to move forward, via MLB.com’s Jane Lee on Twitter. “[W]e had to take a look at where we are and where we’re headed,” says Beane. “[W]e were 11 games behind the Angels last season, and it took the last day to hold off the Mariners, and given the losses that we have … we didn’t think it was possible to add to the current group to make up an 11-game difference.” Beane goes on to say that he was trying to position the team to be in the process of improving, rather than deteriorating. Here are more notes on last night’s deal.
- The trade was a win for the Jays, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (Insider-only). The deal netted Toronto “one of the best players in baseball for a package of prospects that doesn’t quite add up.” In particular, Law feels it’s a future-oriented deal for the A’s, but the two pitchers involved (Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman) are only back-end starter types, and even though the A’s have a good record getting value out of such players, it will be hard Nolin, Graveman, Brett Lawrie and Franklin Barreto to produce enough value to compensate for four years of control of a great player. Also, Law suggests the Athletics’ motivations here aren’t yet clear in light of their recent signing of Billy Butler, which was a “win-now move.”
- The Blue Jays’ side of the trade suggests Toronto believes that it can win with offense in an era dominated by pitching, Drew Fairservice of Fangraphs writes. So far this offseason, the Jays have added Donaldson and Russell Martin to an offense that already featured Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
- The Athletics’ motivations for this deal aren’t yet completely clear, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. Lawrie’s upside and youth could be the key to the deal from their perspective, but he has to stay healthy. One possibility could be that the A’s could move Lawrie to second base and pursue Chase Headley, who could turn out to be a bargain free agent. Cameron suggests that this trade might make more sense once we see what other moves the A’s make this offseason.
- Speaking of which, the Athletics have “at least one more significant trade brewing,” FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. That move could involve Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick or John Jaso — a report last week indicated that the A’s were shopping those players, and that their acquisition of Ike Davis could be seen as an insurance policy in case they traded one.
- The Athletics’ decision to trade Donaldson was a characteristic one, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports writes. The A’s acquired Donaldson in 2008 when they sent Rich Harden to the Cubs, and Donaldson only emerged years later as one of the game’s top third basemen. Now they’re acquiring four players in shipping Donaldson to Toronto, perhaps hoping one of Barreto, Nolin or Graveman blossoms years from now, just like Donaldson did. Passan writes that the deal makes sense from Toronto’s perspective, but the Jays still need help at left field, DH, second base and closer.
The Blue Jays have officially struck a deal to acquire third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Athletics. Heading back to Oakland are infielder Brett Lawrie, righty Kendall Graveman, shortstop Franklin Barreto, and lefty Sean Nolin.
This deal’s franchise-changing implications are evident on its face. Donaldson, 28, and Lawrie, 24, have each been viewed as cornerstone third basemen for their respective clubs.
Donaldson is, of course, the best piece moving in this swap and one of the more valuable commodities in all of baseball. A late bloomer, he had emerged as one of the game’s very best position players over the last two seasons. Collectively, he has slashed .277/.363/.477 with 53 home runs and 13 stolen bases over 1,262 plate appearances since the start of 2013. With stellar defense included, Donaldson has racked up 15.4 rWAR and 14.1 fWAR in that span.
Projected by Matt Swartz/MLBTR to earn $4.5MM in his Super Two season of arbitration eligibility, Donaldson was just starting off on a track to become rather pricey. But he comes with four seasons of control, and will unquestionably be paid less than his anticipated worth on the diamond.
Though significantly younger, Lawrie comes with one less year of control. He is, however, projected to take home just $1.8MM this season and will therefore also have a much lower starting point for his next two seasons of earnings. That element of the deal should not be ignored, as Lawrie will almost certainly be significantly cheaper than Donaldson over the next three campaigns.
On the other hand, he has yet to match Donaldson’s output in spite of his own, oft-noted ability. Over his first three-plus seasons in the bigs, Lawrie owns a .265/.323/.426 slash (good for a 104 OPS+) and has generally drawn solid-to-outstanding reviews on his defensive work. Injuries have limited his time on the field over each of the last two seasons, but Lawrie has generally performed at a well-above-average clip when healthy.
The other pieces involved are, of course, responsible for making up the gap in value between Donaldson and Lawrie. Barreto could be the hidden gem in the package, with Ben Badler of Baseball America noting on Twitter that the 18-year-old was the top July 2 prospect of two years prior and is probably at top-100 level prospect at this point. He came into the year as Toronto’s fifth-rated prospect, per Baseball America, and his .865 OPS with six home runs and 29 steals in just 328 low A plate appearances did nothing but improve upon that standing. Per BA, Barreto has several plus tools (hit, speed, arm) with decent power projection and room to improve on his footwork at the shortstop position.
Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Nolin, a lefty, placed tenth on that BA listing. He has been deemed ready enough to warrant one MLB appearance in each of the last two seasons, though he has spent most of his time in the upper minors. In 105 Triple-A innings thus far, Nolin has posted a 3.17 ERA with 7.5 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9. BA credits him with a “true four-pitch mix” and calls him a fairly polished number four starter type.
Graveman, 23, sprinted through the Blue Jays’ system after going in the eighth round of the 2013 draft. He threw 172 innings across five levels of the organization the the last year alone, largely dominating at every level of the minors as a starter before earning a chance to make a handful of big league relief appearances. In total, he made 27 minor league starts, just seven of which came above the High-A level, carrying a cumulative 1.83 ERA with 6.2 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9.
It would not be surprising at all to see other moves in the works for both clubs after this swap. The Jays have clearly signaled their intention to challenge for the AL East crown, and remain in the market for outfield and bullpen help.
Oakland, meanwhile, is in the midst of something of a general roster churn, but is probably not merely looking to the future after promising $30MM to Billy Butler. With the team’s most recent rotation additions, it is possible to imagine the team dangling one of its expiring contracts (Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir) as it looks to fill out its largely open middle infield mix. Lawrie, of course, has spent some time at second in his career and creates some flexibility in that regard.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the deal (Twitter links), with Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeting Nolin’s inclusion. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier in the evening that a significant trade was in the works.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi (Twitter links) and the National Post’s John Lott, for 50 minutes today before Toronto’s season finale against Baltimore. Here are the highlights:
- Anthopoulos declined to put a figure on the team’s 2015 payroll, but expects to have the financial flexibility to make moves and has “some ideas on trades and free agents.”
- The Blue Jays will make a competitive offer to Melky Cabrera, but Anthopoulos reiterated the club’s policy of limiting contracts to five years “is still firmly in place. That’s not going to change.”
- On the Jays’ starting rotation, “I wouldn’t feel good going into the season with five,” Anthopoulos said. “Philosophically speaking, you want to hoard as much as you can, keep as much depth as you can.” To that end, Anthopoulos hinted J.A. Happ‘s $6.7MM option will be exercised and Aaron Sanchez (“frontline starter potential“) will be stretched out in Spring Training. He will, however, at least consider trade offers for established arms.
- The Blue Jays will eschew big-name relievers and focus on set-up arms in an effort to rebuild their bullpen. Sanchez may pitch in relief sometime during the course of 2015, but only to manage his innings.
- “Yes,” was Anthopoulos’ reply when asked would he hire John Gibbons if he had a managerial opening next season.
- Brett Lawrie is slated to play third base next year, but could be moved to second if an impact third baseman is acquired. As for evaluating the other position players, Anthopoulos will place a premium on durability.
- Nicholson-Smith opines bench upgrades will most likely be accomplished through trades rather than free agency.
The American League East is about as tightly clustered as possible at this point, with just 1.5 games separating the field. With plenty of interesting situations developing in the division’s five organizations, it should (as usual) be a fascinating race to watch — both on the field and in the transactional rumor mill. Here’s the latest:
- In a preview — or, in some respects, a roundup — of the July 2 prospect signing period, Ben Badler of Baseball America says that the American League East figures to lead the way in spending. We have already heard about the Yankees‘ plans to blow well past their bonus limits on this year’s international prospect market, but Badler says that the division-rival Rays and Red Sox also appear poised to incur the maximum penalties for going beyond their pool allocations. (In an earlier report, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel reported upon many of the verbal agreements and rumored matches that form the basis of Badler’s piece.) If that holds true, then each of those three AL East competitors — and, potentially, the Brewers — would not only pay a 100% tax on any over-bonus spending, but would also sacrifice the right to sign any July 2 player to more than a $300K bonus next year.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke today about several current topics involving his club, with MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm among those present (links to Twitter). Anthopoulos made clear that there were no active trade discussions taking place at present with rival front offices, which is surely unsurprising at this stage of the season.
- Anthopoulos also provided new information on two situations that we touched upon last night. First, he said that injured starter Brandon Morrow was expected to avoid surgery and could return around the All-Star break, meaning that he may still contribute in 2014 and could conceivably pitch well enough to entice Toronto to pick up his 2015 club option ($10MM/$1MM buyout). Meanwhile, the GM threw cold water on the idea of permanently transitioning Brett Lawrie to second base to free playing time for Juan Francisco. Of course, that still leaves other possibilities for the Jays to keep Francisco in the fold when Adam Lind returns from injury.
- With Yankees infielder Brendan Ryan making his way back to the club, manager Joe Girardi will face an increasingly complicated situation, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Of course, Derek Jeter remains entrenched at short for the time being, but the living legend has struggled at the plate and in the field. New York GM Brian Cashman recently confirmed that Girardi has full authority to determine who plays and where they hit in the lineup. And Sherman notes that the manager has made several moves — both with respect to former catcher Jorge Posada and, more recently, involving Jeter himself — that hint he is not afraid to ruffle some feathers if necessary to win. With the division shaping up to go down to the wire, Sherman says that Girardi may need to “play bad cop” in dividing playing time going forward.
Jose Reyes ran the bases yesterday and today practiced taking double-play relays. The big question posed to GM Alex Anthopoulos, when he met with reporters before the Blue Jays' three-game winning streak ended with a 6-4 loss to the Rangers, was the timing of Reyes' return. "Our medical staff had said about 10 days or so, maybe a little bit less, but he’s certainly getting close and it’s great to see," Anthopoulos said (as quoted by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca). "Then it will be a question of how many at-bats is he going to need and how do his legs feel playing seven innings, nine innings, and so on. We’re definitely going to be anxious to have him back." Based on that timeline, Davidi speculates Reyes, on the disabled list since April 13 with a left ankle sprain, could begin his rehab June 19 and rejoin the Jays for the start of a four-game series in Boston June 27. In other Blue Jay notes:
- The injury news isn't as encouraging for Brett Lawrie, who is now wearing a protective boot to speed the healing of his high left ankle sprain. "I don't really have a timeline [for his return], because it just takes time to heal," said Anthopoulos (as quoted by MLB.com's Evan Peaslee). "Again, he's going to have to get back to running and all those kind of things. It's not as severe as Reyes, but it seems like it's certainly healing very slowly right now."
- Anthopoulos is taking a game-by-game approach with right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who was signed Friday to a $500K contract, reports Davidi. "We hope he makes a lot of starts for us, but we don’t want to go in and promise x-number amount of starts," the GM said. "Hopefully, he does well and we catch lightning in a bottle with him. But he understands, his agent understands, that if things don’t work out, we have the right to turn the page."
- Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star feels the offseason moves made by Anthopoulos will only be judged as a total failure if he starts a firesale at the Trade Deadline and continues in the off-season to quickly turn some of his off-season acquisitions into prospects because he would invariably receive less in return than what he surrendered.
- Asked in a readers' mailbag about the possibility of trading slumping catcher J.P. Arencibia, Griffin writes this is one question the organization has to really think about moving forward, but there are no internal, minor-league options after trading away Travis d'Arnaud. If Arencibia (owner of a .220/.240/.436 line with 72 strikeouts and five walks in 225 plate appearances this year) were to be dealt, Griffin thinks it would only happen during the off-season when a quality replacement could be acquired.
- Griffin still sees the Blue Jays as contenders in the AL East because, even though all five clubs could finish with winning records, it is unclear whether there is a 100-win team in the division and 90 wins could quite possibly be enough for the second Wild Card berth.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin indirectly shed some light on the philosophical differences which led to trading Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays. Lawrie's name came up when Melvin told Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the plan is to keep second base prospect Scooter Gennett in Triple-A for the full season instead of being promoted because of the struggles of Rickie Weeks. "The plan worked for (Prince) Fielder and Corey Hart and all those guys," Melvin said. "Spend your time at each level. That's the part I couldn't get through with Brett Lawrie. He wanted to go past everybody. That model works if you're a freak like Ryan Braun, but he did play at every level. I always say to go out and prove you're too good for the league. If you do that, we'll consider moving you up." Instead Melvin, moved Lawrie out to Toronto. In other news from the the NL Central:
- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, there is no plan to send Corey Hart, recovering from right knee surgery, on a minor league rehab assignment before June 1. This means Hart, who is eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on May 30, will not join the Brewers until mid-June, at the earliest.
- The number of years and not money will be the issue for the Reds in trying to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Choo ranks second on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
- If Choo does re-sign with Cincinnati, a payroll casualty could be Bronson Arroyo. In a second tweet, Fay says the Reds' payroll is a big puzzle and there are lots of factors involved in trying to retain both Choo and Arroyo.
- Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opines merit is not behind the Cardinals' decision to replace the injured Jaime Garcia with fellow left-hander Tyler Lyons, but a desire to delay the service clock of their top pitching prospect, Michael Wacha. This is the second time Wacha, owner of an 1.89 ERA in eight Triple-A starts, has been bypassed to fill a rotation opening. Miklasz further believes the Cardinals, owners of the best record in the National League, don't have the best 25 players in their system on the active roster citing top prospect Oscar Taveras toiling away in Triple-A while Shane Robinson and Ty Wigginton are struggling offensively.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak disagrees with Miklasz's assessment. "I’m not worried about the clock," Mozeliak was quoted as saying by the Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold (via Sulia). "The media is making a lot of the clock. Other people who read the media are making more of it. To me it’s like that’s not what is making our decisions. It’s managing our decisions for what’s best for the club and what’s best for the individuals in their own silo of development."
- Chris Carpenter is continuing to make progress in his recovery from nerve trouble in his neck and back soreness and could make a rehab start in early June, Goold reports. "I’m not going to push myself back," Carpenter said (as quoted by Goold on Sulia). "I’m going to make sure that I’m healthy and that I know everything is going to work and that I can go out there and take that grind of the amount of pitches and innings it takes to go the rest of the year." Carpenter threw three simulated innings Saturday, will throw a side session Monday, and throw another four simulated innings Thursday, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch and Chad Thornburg.
As the Brewers and Blue Jays engage in a slugfest, here's the latest from Miller Park…
- Brewers officials are telling other clubs that owner Mark Attanasio will be the one who ultimately decides if his team will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, reports CBS Sports' Danny Knobler. Of the Brewers' possible trade chips, Zack Greinke is seen as the least likely to be dealt. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that the Brewers could like to keep Greinke and they feel they wouldn't get full value for the ace "as a two-month rental" before Greinke hits free agency. (Both links go to Twitter)
- Also from Haudricourt, he looked back at the Brett Lawrie/Shaun Marcum trade as the Jays are in Milwaukee for an interleague series. Though Marcum may leave after this season as a free agent, Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he doesn't regret giving up a potential long-term star for a short-term gain of a playoff appearance. "We needed to get a pitcher of Shaun's caliber. He's done a great job for us," Melvin said. "You make trades and move on. You can't look back on them. Otherwise, you'll never make a trade."
Some links to tide you over until tonight's first pitch…
- The Mariners would have traded Michael Pineda to the Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie and another prospect,Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. One executive tells Elliott that “Toronto said no at Lawrie.”
- Angels first baseman Albert Pujols told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that he's not going to lose his edge, even after signing a massive free agent contract. "I always have that chip on my shoulder, no matter what kind of success I've had," Pujols said. He added that he wouldn't be hurt if the Cardinals assigned his former number 5 to another player.
- Major League Baseball is on the cusp of a new era, Tom Verducci of SI.com writes. The sport is doing well thanks to extended labor peace and growing TV revenues.
- Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen expects big things from his third baseman, Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post writes. "Hanley Ramirez has a chance to be MVP in this league," Guillen said.
"I think very highly of my client," said Zack Greinke's agent to Brewers management when the two sides opened extension talks according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Greinke, of course, represents himself. The right-hander and his sense of humor will hire an agent at some point, but for now here are some links from around the league…
- The Astros announced that left-handed reliever Sergio Escalona will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the season. "This probably makes us think about [Zach] Duke’s role if he doesn’t win a spot in the rotation," said GM Jeff Luhnow to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart (Twitter link).
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told ESPN's Jim Bowden that he wants to sign Matt Garza long-term and build around the right-hander rather than trade him (Twitter link).
- "I hope I stay here in Kansas City," said Joakim Soria to MLB.com's Dick Kaegel. Soria will miss the season with Tommy John surgery, and the Royals hold an $8MM club option for his services in 2013. "I love this organization, I feel part of this family and I appreciate what they've done for me."
- "I needed a fresh start. I needed a new team," said Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie to ESPN's Jayson Stark about his trade from the Brewers. Lawrie feels Milwaukee tried to change his effusive personality, though GM Doug Melvin disagrees.
- John Grabow and Jamey Wright will earn $800K and $900K, respectively, if they make the Dodgers according to Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). Both pitchers have incentives based on appearances, maxing out at $500K (Wright) and $200K (Grabow).
Alex Anthopoulos hinted last night that some young Blue Jays drew trade interest this offseason, and Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail has the details on some talks that never materialized. The Blue Jays and Mariners discussed Michael Pineda, but the Blue Jays balked when the Mariners wanted Brett Lawrie in return for the right-hander, according to Blair's sources.
Instead, the Yankees obtained Pineda for Jesus Montero last month and the Blue Jays held onto Lawrie. The 22-year-old British Columbia native made his MLB debut in 2011, posting a .293/.373/.580 line in 171 plate appearances. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik selected Lawrie in the first round of the 2008 draft when he was Milwaukee's scouting director. Meanwhile, Pineda posted a 3.74 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 171 innings as a rookie last year.