The aftermath of the Josh Donaldson trade shows that it wasn’t just the A’s fan base that was rocked by the deal.
Players themselves are reeling from the news. That much is clear from recent comments made by some of Donaldson’s former teammates, who haven’t hidden their shock at seeing Oakland’s best player dealt to the Blue Jays for third baseman Brett Lawrie, pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin and shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto.
This is a franchise with a history of trading its marquee players every few years in exchange for younger, less expensive players that replenish the farm system and reduce payroll. But that doesn’t mean those in the A’s clubhouse get immune to seeing All-Star teammates shown the door.
“We’re losing the best player we’ve had the last two years,” right fielder Josh Reddick told MLB Network Radio earlier this week. “It’s very shocking and very upsetting to see a player like Josh go.”
Asked if he could make sense of the deal, given the A’s could have had Donaldson under team control for four more seasons, Reddick replied:
“I’ve tried, and I haven’t been able to do it for three days. I don’t know.”
First baseman Brandon Moss, also interviewed by MLB Network Radio, was asked his reaction to the trade.
“Absolute shock,” Moss said. “I know how things work. Baseball is a business. And if you’re going to trade a guy, you wanna trade him at his peak and get the most for him. But still, when you have a guy of JD’s caliber, you don’t expect to see that guy traded.”
Set aside the question of how the A’s will compensate for Donaldson’s absence in the lineup. That answer will play itself out once next season begins. What’s worth pondering, in the present, is the impact this trade might have on the collective spirit of this team as it gears up for 2015.
Following last season’s Wild Card loss at Kansas City, A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie (now a free agent) was among the players who went on record saying that the two major mid-season trades that Oakland made in 2014 had an effect on team chemistry just because some key figures were entering and exiting the clubhouse, and it made for an adjustment.
In those trades, the A’s acquired starting pitchers Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, among others, but dealt away All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, among others.
Going into the offseason, there continued to be under-the-surface grumblings among players in regard to the front-office’s maneuverings. And now that players have come out and publicly expressed surprise about the Donaldson deal, you wonder what mindset players will bring when the team opens spring training in February.
But also important to note: There’s plenty of offseason left.
More moves figure to come from general manager Billy Beane and his staff. It’s tough to evaluate how competitive the A’s might be next season because we don’t know what the final roster will look like yet.
There’s a strong possibility that Samardzija gets traded, and the A’s appear to have the rotation depth to withstand such a loss. Samardzija would command a big haul in return, and perhaps the A’s can acquire the major league-ready shortstop they desperately need.
Both Moss and Reddick, funny enough, have surfaced in trade rumors too. A trade of either could also bring valuable pieces in return.
Bottom line, this front office deserves the benefit of the doubt to a degree. Under Beane’s watch, the A’s have qualified for the postseason eight times since 2000. Their 278-208 (.572) regular-season record since the start of 2012 is second in the majors only to the Washington Nationals.
What appears to be a complete rebuild doesn’t always turn out so. Before the ’12 season, the A’s dealt away All-Star pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey but also made several astute acquisitions and wound up winning the American League West.
Even Reddick expressed optimism to MLB Network Radio about the potential of Lawrie and the trio of others the A’s received from the Blue Jays in last week’s deal.
[STIGLICH: Lawrie taking healthy outlook on trade to A's]
But as things currently stand, it’s tough to view the Donaldson trade as anything but a serious blow to the team’s 2015 chances.
Consider this quote from Moss in comparing this trade to the departure of Cespedes:
“Losing (Donaldson) is probably, on the lineup, an even bigger impact than the loss of Cespedes, just because production-wise. … Cespy’s a threat, a huge presence. But he was nothing like JD was.”
More moves will come before spring training begins, and A’s fans will watch with curiosity as the roster evolves. So will the players they buy tickets to see.