Josh Donaldson Rumors

AL Central Notes: Plouffe, Donaldson, Hahn

Veteran reporter Dick Kaegel is retiring after over 50 years covering Major League Baseball.  Mike Bauman penned a nice tribute to his MLB.com colleague, chronicling Kaegel’s long career with such outlets as MLB.com (as the Royals beat writer since 2004), the Kansas City Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Sporting News, to name a few.  Kaegel’s work is very familiar to long-time MLB Trade Rumors readers, and we at MLBTR wish Kaegel all the best in his retirement.

Here’s some news from around the AL Central…

  • The Twins had yet to discuss a multiyear contract with Trevor Plouffe up to Tuesday’s tender deadline, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.  Plouffe is arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and is projected to receive a $4.3MM salary in 2015 by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz.  Since Plouffe is a Super Two player with two more arb years left beyond this one, it makes sense that the Twins will eventually explore obtaining some cost certainty, though it might not be this winter given that Plouffe fractured his forearm in September.
  • The Indians were one of several teams who asked the Athletics about Josh Donaldson, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.  The A’s said Donaldson wasn’t available, though that obviously ended up not being the case as the third baseman was dealt to the Blue Jays.  Pluto wonders if the Tribe could’ve topped Toronto’s trade package had Donaldson been more openly shopped, or if A’s GM Billy Beane specifically liked what the Jays had to offer.
  • Primarily, we are addressing things for the long term,White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters (including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin) in advance of the Winter Meetings.  That said, the Sox made a very notable short-term move in signing veteran Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal, and “if the right situation arises on a short-term basis…we would make that move,” Hahn said.  “We are certainly open to short-term fits that make us better in 2015. We have to take it on a case-by-case basis in terms of players who aren’t necessarily going to be under control for the same three-, four- or five-year window we’ve been focused on for the last year and a half.”

AL Notes: Donaldson, Moss, Markakis, Tigers, Twins, Smoak

Athletics GM Billy Beane firmly rejected the recently-suggested idea that some kind of tension between he and Josh Donaldson played any role in the latter’s recent trade, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. “It is so absurd to respond further is to give it credibility,” said Beane. We’ll take a closer look at Oakland on today’s podcast, which features beat reporter Jane Lee of MLB.com.

Here’s more from the American League:

  • The Athletics are “going to trade Brandon Moss,” an executive told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark last night (Twitter link). We heard yesterday that the Indians were making a run at the slugger, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the pursuit continues today. Of course, as Lee reported last night (via Twitter), there are other teams looking into Moss.
  • Lingering concerns over neck issues may have played a role in the Orioles‘ decision not to top the Braves’ offer to Nick Markakis, Rosenthal reports. Markakis has been quite durable over the last two seasons since being diagnosed with a “small disc herniation,” but of course he has also failed to deliver much pop in that time.
  • Nevertheless, the Orioles did have the second-highest offer on the table to Markakis, per Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (Twitter link). He hears that Baltimore offered four years and $40MM.
  • The Tigers are receiving strong interest in David Price and Rick Porcello, Rosenthal reports (links to Twitter). What Detroit would ask for in return for these starters remains a mystery, Rosenthal adds. Of course, there are several other big-name, 5+ service time pitchers who could potentially be had, and Rosenthal notes that all are still “in play.” He adds that the primary appeal of such arms is their generally below-market salary and the achievement of a year of exclusive negotiating rights. Implicit, of course, is that teams are interested not only in a reasonable hope of achieving excess value on the contract, but also in doing so without exposure to the massive downside risk of a longer-term deal.
  • The Twins will turn their attention to the pitching staff during the Winter Meetings, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. When asked what the team’s priority is, GM Terry Ryan left little doubt how he feels: “Pitching is, and I don’t think there’s any question. We’ve had our struggles on the mound, so we’ll continue to look at pitching first.”
  • Justin Smoak left money on the table to join the Blue Jays, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Agent Dustin Bledsoe told Nicholson-Smith that his client wanted the chance at everyday playing time at first more than the possibility of increasing his guarantee next year.

Quick Hits: A’s, Rockies, Morales, Albers

With the Winter Meetings just a week away, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the top ten Hot Stove storylines heading into December. How the top-tier starting pitcher market shakes out heads the list, according to Castrovince, who notes the trade market for the likes of Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija will heat up once free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer sign. Among Castrovince’s other top headlines this month are whether the Braves trade Justin Upton and how the Red Sox and Dodgers deal with their surplus of outfielders.

Elsewhere in baseball on the final day of November:

  • After A’s GM Billy Beane signed Billy Butler to a $30MM deal and traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com isn’t sure what the plan is in Oakland.
  • The best way for the Rockies to become contenders is for Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to be healthy and productive, but it would be daring for GM Jeff Bridich to trade the duo in search of salary relief to address areas of concern, opines MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby.
  • The market for Kendrys Morales has been quiet to date with only the Indians being linked to the free agent DH. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman tweets, besides Cleveland, the Rangers and Royals are also taking a look at Morales while the Mariners and Blue Jays are possibilities, as well.
  • Left-handed starter Andrew Albers recently became a free agent and has drawn interest from a number of big league clubs, an industry source told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers became a free agent when South Korea’s Hanwha Eagles declined the 2015 option on his one-year deal. The Canadian pitched to a 5.84 ERA in 146 1/3 innings, though he did make 27 starts and led his team with 102 strikeouts. BN-S writes Albers appears to be seeking a split contract with incentives.


AL Notes: Samardzija, Donaldson

Here’s the latest from the AL as we continue to digest turkey and the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.

  • Earlier today, we learned the White Sox and A’s were discussing a trade for Jeff Samardzija. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez may be the A’s prime target, but they also like infield prospect Tim Anderson and utility fielder Marcus Semien, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Some view Anderson, 22 next season, as the second best prospect in Chicago’s system after pitcher Carlos Rodon. Semien, 24, has looked overmatched in 326 major league plate appearances, but he’s featured reliable power, speed, and position flexibility at the Triple-A level. It’s worth wondering if the Sox would deal a top prospect like Anderson for just one season of Samardzija – especially with an apparent buyers market for pitchers.
  • Donaldson credits part of his 2012 offensive breakout to studying the swing of new teammate Jose Bautista, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. According to Donaldson, he’s watched “thousands of hours” worth of Bautista swings (that’s at least 83 days of swing analysis if you want to take the hyperbole at face value).
  • The Blue Jays may feel good about their recent moves, but they won’t boast, reports Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. The club hasn’t reached the postseason since winning the World Series in 1993 – the longest such drought in baseball. While they have to feel good about the core of the lineup, there are plenty of holes on the roster. Second base, left field, and late innings relief are the most pressing areas, although the rotation and center field are notably thin too.

Reactions To The Josh Donaldson Trade

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 Jasoa 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.

Blue Jays Acquire Josh Donaldson From Athletics For Brett Lawrie, Three Others

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.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Toronto Blue Jays

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.


Athletics Will Not Trade Donaldson, Willing To Listen On Pitchers

The Athletics do not intend to deal away star third baseman Josh Donaldson despite speculation that he could be made available, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. That confirms what Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported (via Twitter) the day after the club’s season ended. However, the team will be willing to listen to trade interest in pitchers such as Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir, according to Rosenthal.

Donaldson has emerged as one of the best third basemen and most valuable players in the game. While he is undoubtedly a bargain as a Super Two player with four more years of control, he will not be cheap. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects that Donaldson will land $4.5MM this year, and that number will only continue to rise.

Donaldson’s rising cost led to suggestions that Oakland may consider dealing him. But while he would undoubtedly bring back a huge return, his departure would leave a gaping hole in any plans of near-term contention. As Rosenthal notes, A’s GM Billy Beane believes the team is still primed to reach the postseason next year.

As for Oakland’s staff, deals involving pitchers on expiring contracts are obviously more palatable, though Rosenthal hastens to add that the A’s are not shopping anyone and mentions that a trade deadline deal (if the team falls out of contention) could be the likelier outcome. Both Samardzija (projected $9.5MM arb salary) and Kazmir ($11MM salary with an additional $2MM luxury tax hit for his signing bonus) are cheap for their recent results, and the former in particular would be a popular trade target. In fact, MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in his recent outlook for the A’s offseason that a deal involving Samardzija or Kazmir could make a good bit of sense.


AL West Notes: Donaldson, A’s, Young, Harrison, M’s

While multiple reports yesterday raised the possibility of the Athletics trading Josh Donaldson this offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) spoke with an A’s official who completely dismissed the notion, bluntly stating, “That would be stupid.”  Of course, one such comment doesn’t completely rule out the possibility, but it does seem unlikely that the A’s are feeling too much pressure to move their All-Star third baseman, as he’s just hitting arbitration for the first time.

In other Oakland and AL West news…

  • Athletics GM Billy Beane doesn’t regret pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, he told reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com“Simply put, if we don’t have Jon Lester, I don’t think we make the playoffs,” Beane said. First baseman Brandon Moss also spoke, noting that he doesn’t think there was any way for the A’s to catch the Angels based on their torrid second-half run.
  • The A’s could potentially have a strong pitching staff fronted by Sonny GrayJeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir in 2015, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but they’re left with question marks surrounding that strength. The team has no middle infield to speak of, and the free agent market doesn’t offer much in the way of impact options. Meanwhile, a large portion of the roster — including Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Craig Gentry and Sean Doolittle — is marred by injury concerns. Building a team that can contend in 2015 is a long shot, in Hickey’s estimation.
  • Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some more details on Michael Young‘s upcoming role in the Rangers‘ front office. Young and the Rangers are finalizing a deal that will make him a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels — a role that the Rangers are also discussing with Darren Oliver. However, while many former players that land special assistant roles are loosely affiliated with the club and have a light workload, Grant reports that these roles would be far more significant. The Rangers feel they’ve lacked insight into the psychology of modern players when making recent decisions, and the presence of Young and Oliver could help to provide that insight. The roles will also involve field work and player evaluation at times.
  • Rangers lefty Matt Harrison has pushed back the beginning of his offseason throwing sessions from November to January, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Harrison called the move precautionary, noting somewhat ominously, “I got only one shot at this. I just have to make sure it’s right.” The talented southpaw, who is entering the third year of a five-year, $55MM extension, is attempting to work his way back from his third back surgery in a span of two years.
  • Perhaps the Mariners‘ biggest weakness was the lack of a productive DH this season, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. That flaw, he opines, should be remedied with a hard pursuit of Victor Martinez. Though he’s 36, will cost a draft pick and is sure to be expensive, Stone points out that the time for exhibiting patience is waning, as Felix Hernandez and especially Robinson Cano move closer to the end of their primes. He also points out that Martinez “reveres” manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers prior to becoming Seattle’s manager.

AL Notes: Donaldson, Tomas, Red Sox, Cabrera, Smoak

In this morning’s Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that he feels a Josh Donaldson trade is likely for the Athletics this offseason. Billy Beane has shown a willingness to trade players at their peak value, Olney writes (citing the Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill trades, among others), and Donaldson’s salary will begin to rise quickly now that he’s hit arbitration. Olney looks at the rest of Oakland’s roster and notes that no other trade candidate has value as high as Donaldson’s, so while Jeff Samardzija would be an attractive chip, Donaldson could help Beane usher in his next roster reconstruction.

Some more news from the American League…

  • The Red Sox won’t hold a private workout for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The team did attend his showcase in the Dominican Republic and they’re intrigued by his power, but the team’s glut of outfielders and concerns over Tomas’ strikeout rate in Cuba have tempered their interest.
  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal points to the Pirates’ success in reviving the careers of Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett and points to some similar buy-low candidates that the Red Sox could try for on the free agent market. Of course, as he notes, the Sox are expected to pursue Jon Lester and James Shields, so his suggestions of Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana are intended to be secondary targets.
  • Miguel Cabrera turned down his share of the team’s postseason bonus when the time came to sign the paperwork, reports Paul White of USA Today. Cabrera refused to sign, instead stating that he “just wants the ring.” As White points out, Cabrera could be turning down as much as $300K (though that figure pales in comparison to his salary), and that money could be reallocated to other players as well as Tigers staff such as clubhouse personnel, traveling secretaries, etc.
  • Justin Smoak‘s contract to avoid arbitration last year contained a rare club option, and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that it’s a virtual lock that the Mariners will buy out his $3.65MM option for $150K and non-tender the first baseman. Smoak, the centerpiece of an ill-fated Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers, hit just .202/.275/.339 and has failed to establish himself as a regular in four seasons with Seattle.
  • Also from Divish’s piece, GM Jack Zduriencik called the decision to pick up Hisashi Iwakuma‘s $7MM option a “no-brainer,” which certainly isn’t surprising.

West Notes: Dodgers, Diamondbacks, A’s

Dodgers starter Zack Greinke is on the record with his assessment of rotation-mate Clayton Kershaw's seven-year, $215MM megadeal, telling Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that Kershaw will earn "maybe … a little more than I thought, maybe a million a year more." The always-frank Greinke says the deal is likely fair for both sides, though he adds that Kershaw's opt-out clause, which could allow him to enter the free-agent market at age 30, may tilt the pact in favor of the pitcher. "The opt-out is big … That's the main reason you might say it will be better [for Kershaw]," Greinke said. Greinke, of course, has an opt-out clause in his own contract that could see him hit the free agent market again after the 2015 season. Here's more from baseball's Western divisions:

  • The Diamondbacks will likely send whoever loses the battle for their shortstop job to the minors, GM Kevin Towers told Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, with veteran Cliff Pennington expected to make the club as a backup. Towers is already indicating that Didi Gregorius may be the favorite over Chris Owings, however, noting his strong play in 2013 as a rookie.
  • Athletics stars Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes both say they'd like to remain with the A's beyond their current years of team control, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Cespedes reportedly turned down longer-term deals with other clubs for his current four-year deal with Oakland, which will allow him to become a free agent again at age 30. However, he says his preference will be to remain with the A's if he receives equivalent offers from Oakland and another club at that time.