Yesterday, the Josh Donaldson trade shook the world. The Oakland Athletics moved the face of their team to the Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie and three prospects in Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Franklin Barreto.
Immediately, many believed that the price on Donaldson was too low. They thought that Billy Beane was ruining his team. Donaldson, the face of the Athletics, was dealt for "spare parts." That just isn't the case. The Athletics didn't give up too much or receive too little. The Blue Jays gave up too much for Donaldson.
Brett Lawrie himself might be able to equal Donaldson. At age 24, he's four years younger than the 28-year-old Donaldson, and has just as high a potential. Before the deal, Steamer (which is one of the best projection organizations out there) projected Lawrie, in a hitters park in Toronto, to produce a 4.0 fWAR in a healthy 580 plate appearances, while Donaldson, in a pitchers park in Oakland, to produce a 5.6 fWAR in 636 plate appearances.
Lawrie, when healthy, has the potential to be exactly what Donaldson was. Or at least close to it. However, health is a major issue for him. He has posted a "healthy" 500 plate appearances over a season just once in his career, when he appeared to the plate 536 times in 2012.
I am a big advocate of the "could be" type of players. Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Franklin Barreto are all examples of could be players. Billy Beane dealt his one "sure thing" player in Donaldson and was able to get a return of four could be players. In a depleted farm system, Beane was able to get a young MLB veteran (Lawrie), two major league ready arms (Graveman, Nolin), and a low-level shortstop that has already shown promise (Barreto).
Graveman and Nolin aren't flashy pitching prospects in that they don't throw hard and get a lot of strikeouts. Graveman was picked in the eighth round just last year out of Mississippi State and got his first big league action this year. He features a sinker, slider, and a change. The sinker, his best offering, reached 93 mph last year. Brooks Baseball, perhaps the best pitch-tracking website around, noted that his sinker generates more swings and misses than the average right-hander's does, meaning that the strikeouts could come.
Nolin has four offerings, all used during the 2014 season. His four-seam fastball sits at about 92 mph, which is about average velocity, but he generates good "rising" action on it, which is something Beane would definitely note. His other pitches weren't used enough in the big league setting last year to really get a good report on them.
The thing about both these pitchers is that they don't walk a ton of hitters, but they don't strikeout a ton either. They both could be viable rotation pieces for Oakland next year, and if that isn't the case, Graveman and Nollin could be really good out of the bullpen as well. They are major league ready and do a good job of getting the outs needed. Beane found two diamonds in the rough, per se. Advantage, Oakland.
Finally, the Athletics received Short-Season Single-A shortstop Franklin Barreto. The 18-year-old Barreto posted a 141 wRC+ in 328 plate appearances this past season. He hit .311/.384/.481 with six homers and 61 runs batted in. Barreto is already ranked as the Athletics third best prospect by MLB.com. He could be the real x-factor in this deal and has the highest potential.
I'm not saying the Blue Jays won't benefit from Josh Donaldson. He's going to help them win, and if they win, it won't matter what they give up. However, what they gave up was too much for him. When you take a look at it, the "could be" players, especially considering their proximity to the major leagues, absolutely outrank the "sure thing" player in Donaldson. When we revisit this deal down the road, the Oakland Athletics will have definitely this trade.