Last night, because he never sleeps, Billy Beane pulled off another huge move, sending borderline MVP candidate Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie and three prospects. I thought Luke put it well on Twitter:
Has any GM given baseball Twitter as much to talk about this year as Billy Beane?
— Luke Blaize (@ltblaize) November 29, 2014
Thanks for keeping we purveyors of rumors and transaction analysis in business, Billy.
As for the deal, itself, there are a bunch of angles to consider. Let’s discuss …
- The implications of the deal, from the Toronto/AL East perspective, are pretty clear. The Blue Jays are building an offensive power, which they may now need to augment with pitching (do they go all out to try and land Jon Lester, to whom they’ve been mildly connected?). The Red Sox have made a couple big moves already, and I think it’s fair to guess we’re going to see the Yankees and Orioles feeling even more of an urge to add.
- There’s an analysis of the deal at FanGraphs from both the Toronto and Oakland perspectives. My reaction remains what it was last night: I like the deal for both teams. Offense is in such short supply that the Blue Jays had to pay a fairly steep price – three nice prospects – for the upgrade from Brett Lawrie to Josh Donaldson. And Lawrie is several years younger with just as much upside (he can’t stay healthy). It’s a great go-for-it move for the Blue Jays, and a solid regrouping move for the A’s.
- Speaking of the A’s side of this, here’s Billy Beane’s explanation:
Billy Beane: pic.twitter.com/Uim4DyP6B4
— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) November 29, 2014
- The “11-game difference” thing probably isn’t worth dwelling on, because we know that all you can do in roster construction is build the best team on paper (i.e., based on projections) possible. You can’t “make up” the difference in how teams actually performed from the previous year (because teams rarely win the number of games they’re “supposed to”). But the overall point is accurate, and has been the story of the A’s for years: this is the kind of deal they have to make, and I think Beane made it at the right time with Donaldson, who is about to turn 29 and get expensive.
- We’ll see where the A’s go from here, as they still have a glut of corner outfield/1B types (Josh Reddick sure is an interesting player), and a lack of middle infielders. Jeff Samardzija also figures to be shopped heavily (there are some White Sox rumors out there, which would be awesome for the pure theater). There are also rumors that the A’s are talking to the Braves about Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, but, again, is that really what they need? I guess you never know how Beane will approach things.
- The A’s had to open up two spots on the 40-man roster to complete this trade, which they did by designating pitcher Josh Lindblom and outfielder Kyle Blanks. The latter is a highly interesting player who is just 28 and has always hit reasonably well. Blanks’ primary issue has been an inability to stay healthy. If you wanted to roll the dice on him for cheap, though, he’s a guy who can play both corner outfield spots, and has posted a 115 wRC+ against lefties in his career (101 against righties, so he doesn’t kill you there, either). Because of the injury issues, my guess is that if the A’s wind up trying to trade Blanks following the DFA, rather than waive him, they’ll likely be able to get only a pittance. Mostly, it’s just a matter of finding a team that would use a 40-man spot on him. I should point out: Blanks played in San Diego when Jed Hoyer was the GM there.
- Is he right for the Cubs, though? Well, it depends a bit on what else the Cubs want to do with their outfield, because they’re already overflowing with 4th/5th outfielder types – and that’s before they add someone like Jonny Gomes for right-handed power/leadership/clubhouse stuff. In that way, you’d almost have to view Blanks as a guy the Cubs would be adding instead of a Gomes type. Would they really do that? Alternatively, if the Cubs wanted to add both a Blanks and a Gomes, they would likely have to part with Justin Ruggiano (though that could be a net savings of money for not much drop in performance). From there, would the Cubs carry all of Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, Arismendy Alcantara, Ryan Sweeney, Blanks and Gomes (I’m already assuming at that point that Junior Lake is at AAA or gone; ditto Matt Szczur)? Alcantara’s versatility probably allows you to pull it off, but he and Sweeney are probably the only guys in that group that can play center field. That means the Cubs would have four guys on the roster who are purely corner outfielders. That’s tough to carry in the NL. So, in that case, if you did want to see the Cubs pick up Blanks, perhaps your best hope is that he’s waived, clears waivers, becomes a free agent, and has to settle for a minor league contract. Then the Cubs could bring him to Spring Training and see what happens.