Oakland, Calif. — All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson is the latest Oakland star traded away in a rebuilding effort.
Billy Beane looked at the large deficit by which his Athletics lost the AL West to the Angels, then evaluated how Oakland barely held off Seattle on the season's final day for the second wild card.
The general manager realized he needed to rebuild his roster once more, but at least initially he didn't envision the move he made Friday night: Letting Donaldson go to the Toronto Blue Jays for third baseman Brett Lawrie, left-hander Sean Nolin, right-hander Kendall Graveman and minor league shortstop Franklin Barreto.
Beane considers both pitchers ready for the majors.
"They had been pretty persistent, and we were pretty adamant that wasn't something we were willing to talk about," Beane said of dealing Donaldson. "We wouldn't have done the deal unless it addressed now and the future and they were able to do that. This deal in our minds addresses a little bit of everything. It got pretty serious the last 48 hours. They were reluctant to give up all four players and we weren't going to do it without those four players in the deal."
But Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos sweetened the deal, offering Lawrie as a replacement for Donaldson.
"I have a pretty good relationship with Billy," the GM said. "At some point someone makes it really compelling."
At first he had been reluctant to give up four players for Donaldson, but the A's wouldn't have proceeded otherwise. Donaldson provides a steady hitter in the middle of the order for a Toronto team that finished third in the AL East at 83-79 and has watched the last-place Boston Red Sox pull off the big deals this past week, acquiring third baseman Pablo Sandoval and shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
"Donaldson's been an outstanding player," Anthopoulos said. "We're getting a middle-of-the-order bat and it's something that we need. We didn't expect him to be available. … It doesn't hurt to ask. We asked if there was any way we could ask about Donaldson. Billy told me emphatically no. We left it at that. A few days ago we were talking again and asked again. Finally when Brett was involved to replace Josh that's when it started to move again."
The 28-year-old Donaldson, a sure-handed, athletic defender, batted .255 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs in 158 games last season. In four seasons in the majors, all with Oakland, he has a .268 average with 63 home runs and 228 RBIs in 405 games.
Another fan favorite, gone. Anthopoulos can't wait to see Donaldson's bat alongside slugger Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
"You are going to have to give up some really good players to get Donaldson," Anthopoulos said.
Oakland, which won the AL West in 2012 and '13, lost by 10 games to the big-spending Angels. The A's were then eliminated 9-8 in 12 innings in the one-game AL wild card at eventual AL champion Kansas City.
Beane wasn't sure Oakland could contend for the division again without some key additions, especially after losing left-hander Jon Lester following his short stint since being traded from Boston at the All-Star break.
"When we went into this winter we had to take a look where we are and where we're headed," Beane said.
He has already been plenty busy.
On Nov. 19, Beane signed designated hitter and former Royals star Billy Butler to a $30 million, three-year contract. Just last Sunday, the A's acquired first baseman Ike Davis and international bonus slot 86 from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for international bonus slot 27.
Lawrie batted .247 with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs in 70 games for Toronto last season. He missed most of the final three months because of a broken finger and an oblique strain. Nolin is expected to compete for a rotation spot.
"We addressed a lot of areas we thought we needed filled from our organizational standpoint," Beane said.
The A's still need a shortstop with Jed Lowrie a free agent. Finding that player also might come through a trade because "I certainly won't see it through free agency," Beane said.
To clear spots on the 40-man roster, the A's designated right-hander Josh Lindblom and first baseman Kyle Blanks for assignment.