- Top Athletics pitching prospect A.J. Puk will be promoted to the organization’s Triple-A affiliate, according to Melissa Lockard of The Athletic (Twitter link). After Tommy John surgery forced Puk to miss all of 2018, the 6’7″ left-hander got back into action in June, posting a 5.02 ERA, 13.8 K/9, and 3.14 K/BB rate over 14 1/3 combined innings at Double-A and high-A ball. They aren’t exactly dominant numbers for Puk, though between his long layoff and perhaps some bad luck (four homers in those 14 1/3 IP), the A’s are clearly encouraged enough to give Puk his first taste of Triple-A competition. The hard-throwing Puk would very likely have been in the big leagues last season had he avoided injury, and is still on track to make his MLB debut this season if he stays healthy. While the A’s will surely be as cautious as possible with one of their top young hurlers, Puk has the potential to be a very intriguing addition to Oakland’s bullpen or perhaps even the rotation as the A’s continue to chase another postseason berth.
- Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman left their win over the Mariners on Wednesday with left ankle soreness, Oakland announced. Chapman is day-to-day, Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle relays. Winners of eight of 10 and tied with Cleveland for the AL’s second wild-card position, the A’s are rolling thanks in part to Chapman, who’s enjoying another superstar-caliber campaign. The 26-year-old has torched the opposition for a .279/.363/.552 batting line with 22 home runs and 4.2 fWAR over 405 plate appearances in 2019.
- Stephen Piscotty, on the injured list due to a sprained MCL in his right knee, is confident that he can return to the Athletics on the shorter end of his initial four- to six-week timeline, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. He could begin a minor league rehab stint next week and potentially return before month’s end. Meanwhile, lefty Sean Manaea will make a third rehab start with Class-A Stockton on Thursday before transferring his rehab to Triple-A — likely for another three starts. That’d put Manaea in line for an August return — an encouraging timeline for an A’s club that once feared he’d miss the entire 2019 season.
One month ago today, the Athletics sat a dozen games off the pace in the AL West with a dead-even 36-36 record. The Oakland org was still a Wild Card contender but seemed all but buried in the division. That was a mild disappointment for a 2018 playoff team but hardly all that surprising given that the A’s were chasing a powerhouse Astros club.
To say that the fortunes have swung in the interim would be to put it lightly. The streaking A’s have dropped just five of their past 22 games. After blitzing past the Rangers in the standings, they’re laying siege to Houston. With the Astros encountering some choppy waters, particularly in the rotation, the lead has dwindled to a decidedly less-than-insurmountable 5.5 games.
Let’s be honest here: the Houston club still seems the prohibitive favorite. With rather deep pockets, some immense talent just reaching or knocking on the door of the majors, and one of the game’s best core groups at the MLB level, the ’Stros are a legitimate powerhouse. And the padding certainly still factors in; even if all else was equal, the existing 5.5-game lead represents a big head start.
Still, the increasing threat from the A’s creates an interesting dynamic in the division that will have a spillover effect onto the rest of the trade market. These clubs clash directly 11 more times this season, affording the ever-scrappy Oakland org plenty of opportunities to make up ground directly — or for their rivals to kick them back down the ladder. There’s enough of a threat here that the Astros can’t just presume they’ll cruise to a division win. At the very least, they’ll need to account for the rest of the regular season in making deadline acquisitions, rather than simply considering how to structure their roster for an easily assumed postseason run. (That’s a luxury that few teams can afford — only the Dodgers, this year — but it once seemed within reach for Houston.)
What’s most interesting, perhaps, is the fact that these two AL West rivals are set to compete (at least indirectly) in the trade market. The chief need in both cases is pitching, particularly starting pitching, which is also largely true of the other major American League competitors. Teams with controllable rotation pieces — many of whom feature on our recent ranking of the top sixty trade deadline candidates — are no doubt taking uniform measurements for the top prospects currently populating these contenders’ farm systems.
We’ll pause here to acknowledge the aforementioned, division-rival Rangers. While our focus in this post is on the two current division leaders, the Texas club still has an interesting role to play. If they fade a bit further back, the Rangers could have some of the most intriguing starters on offer, with veterans Mike Minor and Lance Lynn both throwing quite well on affordable contracts. If they move back into the picture, at least for the Wild Card, they’d surely be looking to add to their staff. It’s also possible they’ll simply hold. The Athletics’ run will likely weigh to some extent on the Rangers’ decisionmaking; with three game now separating the teams, it makes a surprising Texas postseason appearance feel all the less likely.
To be fair, the A’s and ’Stros haven’t exactly received problematic rotation work to this point. They’ve each had top-ten overall units by measure of ERA. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell the whole story of where these clubs stand in terms of starting pitching.
As GM Jeff Luhnow’s latest comments reflect, the Astros have an immediate need for a rotation plug, a broader need for a high-level starter or two down the stretch, and a long-term need to account for multiple rotation spots. Brad Peacock’s setback, coupled with some struggles and health issues from young MLB pitchers and top prospects, have left the team with quite a few questions behind aces Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander and steady veteran Wade Miley. While the club has a few notable position players working back from injury, it’s far from clear that it’ll find solutions to its rotation needs from within.
Over in Oakland, rather improbably, the A’s have received sub-4.00 output from each of Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson, and Chris Bassitt over 15+ start samples. Each of those pitchers has vastly outperformed his peripherals; they hover in the 5.00 range by measure of ERA estimators such as xFIP and SIERA. All of those things are true also of Daniel Mengden, albeit over just 33 1/3 frames and six starts. While the Oakland staff has collectively limited the long balls plaguing most of the rest of the league, it’s reasonable to anticipate regression — perhaps in no small amount.
The A’s just added Homer Bailey, who’ll help shore up the depth. But he’s no replacement for Frankie Montas, the breakout righty who’ll be able to return later this year from a PED suspension but won’t be eligible for the postseason. While the Oakland org has long hoped for late-season reinforcements from the injured list, it remains to be seen what they’ll get. Jesus Luzardo is back on the shelf and seems increasingly unlikely to make his MLB debut this season. A.J. Puk is still building up length and working out the kinks. And Sean Manaea just began his own rehab assignment. Whether and when those talented southpaws will arrive, and what they’ll be capable of contributing, won’t really be known before the trade deadline.
This all sets the stage for something of a showdown between the teams’ respective top baseball ops decisionmakers: Jeff Luhnow of the Astros and Billy Beane of the Athletics. Both have swung notable deadline deals for starters in the recent past. The Houston club’s dramatic acquisition of Verlander will have a prominent place on Luhnow’s GM gravestone. But that was nothing compared to Beane’s all-out 2014 effort, in which he pulled off a Fourth of July double-dip and followed that up with a stunningly clever (some would say too clever) strike for Jon Lester.
Luhnow and Beane have each been here before. They have some excellent trade chips to work with, several of which could instead be utilized as immediate (and long-term) pieces at the MLB level. Will the Astros seriously consider moving Kyle Tucker? What of top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley, a potential top-shelf ace who has run into trouble this season. Could they consider parting with the flamethrowing Josh James, currently working as a reliever, or can Luhnow convince a rival to accept a package of second-tier prospect talent to make the necessary rotation upgrades? On the A’s side, there are endless possibilities as well. Much of the team’s best upper-level talent is presently unavailable due to injuries or suspensions, but that doesn’t mean those players wouldn’t have value to other organizations. Though the A’s probably won’t want to go too wild in pursuit of rental talent, since the division remains a tall order, perhaps they’ll also see the deadline as an opportunity to add pieces for the future.
It’s equally possible to imagine either organization taking a fairly measured approach to this deadline. Luhnow has in the past been quite judicious in parting with top prospects that he sees as part of the long-term vision. And the A’s might not be willing to sell low on their own most interesting trade pieces, preferring to keep gathering affordable and decent depth pitching while waiting and hoping for a future with a rotation full of cost-controlled aces. But the potential for fireworks is certainly there, and the A’s mid-summer charge could just light the fuse.
- The trade that brought Homer Bailey from the Royals to the Athletics “came together kind of quickly this morning,” Oakland GM David Forst told MLB.com’s Martin Gallegos and other media, as Forst initially contacted the Royals about Bailey only “a few days ago.” Bailey was actually scheduled to start today for Kansas City, and was only told of the deal while he was doing his pregame warmup pitches in the bullpen. Bailey adds at least one veteran arm to Oakland’s pitching mix, and while the A’s hope to get some of their injured younger hurlers back soon, the club hasn’t closed the door on more trades. “We’ll keep an eye on starters, but we have a lot of conversations going on for relievers right now,” Forst said.
The Oakland Athletics have closed on a deal to acquire Kansas City’s Homer Bailey, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported (via Twitter) that a trade was imminent. The Royals will receive minor-league infielder Kevin Merrell in return, according to an official Athletics release.
Bailey, 33, will go down as another bargain-bin acquisition for the playoff-hungry Athletics, who sit six games behind the first-place Astros, but currently slot in as the second Wild-Card team in the American League. Much like last season, when the team won 97 games and landed in the Wild Card game, the Athletics will hunt for affordable pitching help (which came in the form of Mike Fiers in 2018) to boost the club to back-to-back postseason berths. Rarely a team to make splash acquisitions, the A’s will likely remain on the periphery of the discussions surrounding marquee starters like Noah Syndergaard and Trevor Bauer. Of course, that doesn’t mean that value can’t be found elsewhere on the trade market.
Evidently, David Forst, Billy Beane and company believe that Bailey represents such a value. With the Dodgers, who acquired and immediately released Bailey in a December blockbuster with the Reds, paying the remainder of his hefty salary, the Royals snagged the veteran on a minor-league deal, meaning that the Athletics will only owe about $250K to Bailey.
Though he was maligned last season for his 1-14 record, Homer Bailey has shown some encouraging signs this year, and has posted his lowest ERA since 2014. He’s striking out 8.1 batters per nine innings, and home runs have come less often than last season. This isn’t an acquisition that can transform a pitching staff overnight, but Bailey will step in as a low-cost veteran who could pay dividends in the stretch run.
It’s been pitching that has concerned the Athletics all season, and many anticipated the team pursuing upgrades on the mound this summer. With a myriad of injuries preventing promising southpaws Sean Manaea, Jesus Luzardo, and A.J. Puk from contributing thus far, Oakland has had to patch together a makeshift rotation to carry them through the first half. Not to mention breakout star Frankie Montas, who won’t be eligible for postseason play after a PED suspension. And while the staff hasn’t plummeted to the bottom of the league—Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson, and Chris Bassitt have held their own—it’s hard to put much confidence in that group winning a playoff series, especially against the juggernauts of the American League.
Expect more to come from Oakland this trade season, especially on the pitching front. The front office, though garnering a reputation as frugal, can be aggressive when it senses a window for contention, and the club is in a good spot. Other veteran starters may still be in play, but it seems that with Bailey in the fold, the team’s focus will shift to the bullpen. The existing group has a solid track record between Liam Hendriks, Blake Treinen, and Lou Trivino, though consistency has been lacking in that department this season.
As for Kansas City, it seems unlikely that this is the last we’ll hear from Dayton Moore and the front office this July. The 32-61 Royals have been rumored to be open to trades involving just about anybody on the roster, with a few exceptions. Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier appear to be two cornerstones that the franchise is intent on keeping around, though a steep asking price for Whit Merrifield might make it difficult to pry him away from KC. Alex Gordon, meanwhile, may have redeemed some of his value with a renaissance season, but the veteran seems keen on playing out his career with the Royals, the franchise that drafted him.
That said, there are a number of Royals who could find themselves in different uniforms by the time the calendar turns to August, with Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jake Diekman, and Jorge Soler perhaps the most realistic trade candidates. Diekman has apparently already attracted some interest from the Nationals, and other contending clubs could be drawn to Kennedy’s resurgence as a high-leverage reliever. Of course, in the cases of Kennedy and Duffy, the Royals would likely have to eat considerable portions of their remaining contracts to facilitate a trade.
Kevin Merrell, who heads to Kansas City in this swap, was a 2017 draft selection of the Athletics in Competitive Balance Round A. Ranked by MLB.com as the Athletics’ 17th-best prospect, Merrell is touted for his speed on the bases, with questions surrounding his bat. In general, his profile keeps with the Royals’ trend of acquiring speedy athletes, and Merrell, 23, has the potential to grow into a multi-positional depth role with Kansas City. With a crop of impressive young position players and an influx of college pitchers from the 2018 draft, the team may find its way out of the rebuilding phase quicker than anticipated.
Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole is currently on pace to join the prestigious 300-strikeout club, a group with no shortage of Hall of Fame-level talent. Cole leads the majors with a dazzling 13.11 strikeouts per nine innings, whereas Athletics left-hander Brett Anderson resides on the opposite end of the spectrum. Anderson places dead last among qualified starters in K/9 at 4.56. His K/BB ratio (1.58) ranks a similarly unappealing fourth worst in the game. Nevertheless, in a season filled with setbacks for the A’s rotation, Anderson has been one of the unit’s few stabilizing forces.
The 31-year-old Anderson’s 2019 success has come at a nominal fee. After Anderson inked a minor league deal entering 2018 and helped pitch the Athletics to the playoffs, he re-signed on an MLB pact worth $1.5MM during the offseason. Now, for the second year in a row, Anderson may aid in a postseason berth for Oakland.
Injuries have been an all-too-common occurrence for Anderson, who began his career with the Athletics in 2009 and later spent time with the Rockies, Dodgers, Cubs and Blue Jays before circling back to the A’s a year ago. This season, though, Anderson has stayed healthy in a season chock-full of poor fortune for Oakland’s pitching staff. Not only haven’t the A’s gotten a single inning from the injured quartet of Sean Manaea, Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Jharel Cotton, but they lost their ace, Frankie Montas, to an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension June 21.
Anderson’s first start after Montas’ ban – a three-inning, seven-run performance in a June 23 loss to the Rays – was a nightmare. However, since then, Anderson has yielded a meager two earned runs on seven hits over 14 innings in a pair of starts – both wins for a playoff-contending A’s team that needs every victory it can get. Anderson now owns an above-average 3.86 ERA through 102 2/3 frames on the season. Known throughout his majors tenure for inducing ground balls, Anderson has done so at a 53.1 percent clip this year. As always, Anderson’s worm-burning tendencies have enabled him to limit home runs to a respectable extent. The average starter has surrendered HRs on 15.2 percent of fly balls in 2019, but Anderson’s at just 11.1.
Despite the laundry list of injuries Anderson has contended with throughout his time in the majors, his velocity remains in line with career figures. He’s averaging approximately 90 mph on his four-seam fastball and sinker, and has thrown the latter pitch 10 percent more than he did last season, according to Statcast. The results haven’t been great, though, as hitters have posted a .353 weighted on-base average/.382 expected wOBA against it. Anderson has stifled hitters with his slider, on the other hand, though his usage of it has decreased by 6 percent since 2018. In the 19.8 percent of the time Anderson has leaned on the pitch this year, batters have logged a non-threatening .286 wOBA/.298 xwOBA against it.
Perhaps Anderson would be well-served to turn to his slider more often, especially considering he has benefited from quite a bit of luck with his overall arsenal thus far. Anderson’s expected wOBA (.350) portends trouble compared to his real wOBA (.302). The same applies to Anderson’s 4.54 FIP – which ranks 21st from the bottom among qualified starters. Likewise, Anderson’s .268 batting average on balls in play against may be tough to maintain for someone who has surrendered a .309 BABIP during his major league career.
For now, the A’s are enjoying the inexpensive ride with Anderson, who might be on his way to another major league contract in the offseason. But while the strikeout-happy Cole could score $200MM-plus in free agency over the winter, the contact-heavy Anderson may be fortunate to net much more than the sub-$2MM guarantee he secured coming into the season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
If you ask Astros ace Justin Verlander, Major League Baseball has become a home-run happy farce. Verlander, who started the All-Star Game for the American League on Tuesday, issued acerbic comments on the direction of the game Monday, saying (via Jeff Passan of ESPN): “Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you’ve got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the [expletive] company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it’s not a guess as to what happened.”
Sour grapes from someone who’s already close to allowing a career-high home run total for a season? It doesn’t seem that way. There is growing skepticism – not just from Verlander – about the integrity of the baseball MLB is using, and understandably so. Big leaguers are on pace to hit 6,600-plus home runs, which would crush the record of 6,105 set in 2017, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times notes. Like Verlander, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is under the impression something is up. So are starters Max Scherzer, Charlie Morton, Jake Odorizzi, Marcus Stroman and CC Sabathia, as Kepner and Passan detail in their pieces.
“If there’s something that’s potentially altering that, just come out and say it,” Odorizzi said. “I think, as players, we’ve gotten to the point now where we’ve accepted it.”
However, according to commissioner Rob Manfred, there isn’t anything nefarious happening. Rather, the league “has done nothing, given no direction, for an alteration in the baseball.” Manfred added MLB doesn’t want more home runs – owners have “no desire” for an increase, he insisted Tuesday – so juicing the baseball wouldn’t make sense from MLB’s perspective.
At the same time, Manfred did admit Monday the ball has changed. He told ESPN’s Golic and Wingo (via Passan): “”Our scientists that have been now studying the baseball more regularly have told us that this year the baseball has a little less drag. It doesn’t need to change very much in order to produce meaningful change in terms of the way the game is played on the field. We are trying to understand exactly why that happened and build out a manufacturing process that gives us a little more control over what’s going on. But you have to remember that our baseball is a handmade product and there’s gonna be variation year to year.”
Whether Manfred’s telling the truth in regards to the baseball is up for debate. What’s clear is that the game won’t be injecting more offense by implementing a universal designated hitter in the imminent future. Manfred remarked Tuesday (via Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that a DH in the National League is not “inevitable,” indicating it won’t come up as a possibility until after the collective bargaining agreement runs out in 2021.
Free agency, like the DH, will be an important discussion point during talks on the next CBA. Clark conveyed a desire this week to restore “meaningful free agency.” Manfred seems happy with the current system, though, saying baseball has the “freest free agency in any sport” – one devoid of a salary cap, franchise tags and max contracts. He expressed satisfaction that MLB “has produced more $100 million guaranteed contracts than the rest of professional sports combined.” While Manfred did indicate a willingness to negotiate with the union as regards free agency, the league’s “economic system has to preserve the competitiveness of those small-market clubs. That is always our overriding goal.”
Concerning the markets MLB plans to occupy going forward, Manfred put the kibosh on any short-term expansion possibilities, stating, “There’s no way we’re biting into expansion until we get Tampa and Oakland (which also needs a new stadium) resolved one way or the other.”
Tampa Bay, however, is exploring becoming a two-city franchise – an idea the league has thrown its support behind. In Manfred’s estimation, the Rays’ proposed Tampa Bay-Montreal team-sharing setup would present “an opportunity to preserve baseball in Tampa Bay. And I’m not prepared to say one way or the other what’s going to happen if that effort turns out to be unsuccessful.”
Khris Davis has been a remarkably consistent piece of the Athletics’ offense since the team acquired him from the Brewers just a couple months before the 2016 season began. A .247 hitter in his final season with the Brewers, Davis incredibly posted that same average from 2016-18 in Oakland. At the same time, the man known as Khrush slammed 133 home runs – at least 42 in each season – while recording a 128 wRC+ during that three-year, 1,916-plate appearance span.
Durability played an important role in Davis’ counting stats during his first three years as an Athletic. He appeared in no fewer than 150 games in any of those seasons, though hip, oblique and left hand problems have dogged Davis this year, limiting him to 74 of a possible 91 contests. It hasn’t been an ideal outcome for low-budget Oakland, which signed the fan and organizational favorite to a two-year, $33.5MM contract extension entering 2019. Including Davis’ $16.5MM salary this season, he’s under wraps through 2021 for $50MM. That’s a lot for the A’s, who – despite being in the thick of the playoff race for the second straight year – haven’t gotten the optimal version of Davis.
Through 302 plate appearances this season, the 31-year-old Davis has batted a career-worst .236/.305/.433 with a personal-low .196 ISO that sits 91 points below his 2016-18 mark. While Davis does have 16 homers, he’s easily on pace for his fewest in a season as an Athletic, and he hasn’t hit one since June 18. Moreover, his wRC+ (94) comes in 16 points below the league average for a designated hitter.
This past weekend, Davis explained to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that the pain in his hand has hampered his power, saying: “It’s just not as strong as it should be. I’ve been choking up a little bit, and that’s been helping a little, but not a lot of power guys choke up.”
Indeed, although a career-high swing percentage (52.7) has led to Davis’ greatest contact rate as an Athletic (70 percent), he’s not denting the ball to the extent he did in prior years. Davis’ average exit velocity has decreased from 92.5 mph to 89.5 since last season, according to Statcast, while his launch angle has plummeted from 18.1 to 12.4. He has also hit 11.7 percent fewer fly balls since then, which helps explain why he’s so far from the major league-leading 48 homers he amassed a season ago.
Davis’ MLB-best HR total in 2018 played a key part in a .365 weighted on-base average/.378 expected wOBA, but those numbers have sunk to .313/.331 this year. His xwOBA ranks in the league’s 48th percentile, while his expected batting average (35th), hard-hit rate (52nd) and expected slugging percentage (65th and down 106 points from 2018) also aren’t befitting of a top-rate slugger. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia, though: Davis’ expected average is – you guessed it – .247.
The right-handed Davis has typically handled both same-handed and lefty pitchers, though not having the platoon advantage has kneecapped him this year. He’s hitting an unimposing .226/.297/.392 (83 wRC+) against righties thus far. Per FanGraphs, Davis destroyed pitches in the middle of the zone against RHPs just a season ago, but his success in that portion of the plate (and in other areas) versus righties has dwindled significantly in 2019.
With two-plus months left in the season, Davis has time to reverse his fortunes this year and help Oakland to the playoffs. Owing in some part to injuries, though, one of the game’s fiercest sluggers has gone backward in a season where power has run rampant. Considering the hefty investment small-budget Oakland made in Davis coming into the season, it’s in obvious need of a turnaround from the typically elite HR hitter going forward.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson smacked his 200th career home run Sunday, a feat the Cubs were no doubt hoping he’d achieve in their uniform when they selected him 48th in the 2007 draft. The former Auburn Tiger never hit a single dinger for the club, though, and changed organizations a little over 12 months after the Cubs drafted him. It was exactly 11 years ago today, on July 8, 2008, that Chicago dealt Donaldson to Oakland. It’s now safe to say the Donaldson pickup has been among the best of A’s executive Billy Beane’s impressive tenure with the franchise.
Beane sent veteran right-handers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to the Cubs, acquiring Donaldson, outfielders Eric Patterson and Matt Murton, and righty Sean Gallagher in return. When the deal was consummated, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes noted it was the Cubs’ counterattack after the NL Central rival Brewers acquired lefty CC Sabathia from the Indians the day before.
Sabathia just about willed the Brewers to the playoffs in 2008, though the eventual World Series champion Phillies overmatched them in the NLDS. The Cubs did finish well ahead of the Brewers en route to an NL Central crown that season, but they also fell in the NLDS, losing in a sweep against the Dodgers. While Harden struggled during his lone start in that series, the oft-injured hurler was highly effective for the Cubs when he was healthy enough to take the mound. All told, he turned in 38 starts and 212 innings of 3.31 ERA ball with 11.0 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 as a Cub before leaving for the Rangers in free agency ahead of the 2010 season. Gaudin was nowhere near that productive, logging a 6.26 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with Chicago. He exited via free agency going into the 2009 campaign.
Both Hardin and Gaudin (especially the former) were useful A’s, but the team said goodbye to them despite possessing a 49-41 record at the time. Oakland was six behind the first-place Angels in the AL West and, in an era in which only one team earned a wild card, 3 1/2 back of a playoff spot. Beane insisted at the time it wasn’t a white flag move by Oakland, but the club fell apart thereafter and finished 75-86. However, Beane did say then, “I think we’ve taken a step forward for the next three to five years.”
It took a little longer than Beane wanted for the swap to bear fruit for the Athletics, though. None of Patterson, Murton or Gallagher amounted to much with the team. Donaldson, meanwhile, was a catcher prospect who took a half-decade from the trade to truly make his mark as a major league. While Donaldson did get to the majors in 2010 and then see extensive time with the A’s in 2012, his game took until 2013 to reach star-caliber heights. By then, Donaldson was no longer a catcher. The newly minted third baseman emphatically burst on the scene in ’13 with 7.3 fWAR and a 147 wRC+ in 668 plate appearances. Donaldson finished fourth in the AL MVP voting and helped the A’s to a 96-win, playoff-bound season in the process.
The A’s returned to the postseason in 2014, once again with significant help from Donaldson. He notched another 5.7 fWAR with a 130 wRC+ in 695 trips to the plate to wind up eighth in his league’s MVP balloting. Oakland couldn’t get past eventual AL champion Kansas City in the wild-card round that fall, though. Two months later, the A’s made the stunning decision to send Donaldson to the Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie, righty Kendall Graveman, infielder Franklin Barreto and lefty Sean Nolin.
Just as picking up Donaldson from the Cubs proved to be a steal for the Athletics, the same held true in the Blue Jays’ acquisition of the the player who became known as the Bringer of Rain. Donaldson went on to earn AL MVP honors in 2015, his debut season in Toronto and the first of two straight years in which the club advanced to the ALCS. He remained a force up north through 2017, but injuries marred his 2018, during which the rebuilding Blue Jays waved goodbye to the then-impending free agent in a trade with the Indians in August.
For Oakland, none of Lawrie, Graveman or Nolin delivered as hoped, nor have they produced much at any other major league stops since their stints with the Athletics concluded. The jury remains out on Barreto, just 23 years old, but the former top 100 prospect still hasn’t established himself as a major leaguer. However, perhaps Barreto will eventually realize his potential and make a Donaldson-like impact in the bigs. That seems highly improbable now, but nobody thought Donaldson would evolve into an elite player when Oakland scooped him up on this date 11 years ago.