The jolt hit him heavy last November, and it took Josh Donaldson a couple weeks to grasp the reality that the A’s had actually traded him.
Before long, however, he realized the move was probably the best thing for his own career. On Thursday, the former A’s third baseman basked in the glow of being named the American League Most Valuable Player.
The honor capped an incredible first season in Toronto for Donaldson. For many A’s fans, his trade to the Blue Jays understandably remains a sore subject, considering he was still four years away from free agency at the time of the deal. The A’s received infielder Brett Lawrie, pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin and shortstop Franklin Barreto, who is now their top prospect.
For Donaldson, who knew his time in green and gold wouldn’t last forever, the move proved to be an individual bonanza.
“I was a little ahead of my timetable for when I thought I was going to be traded,” Donaldson said on a media conference call Thursday. “After two or three weeks of getting over the shock, my agency, my family, we talked about it, and we saw the bigger picture. Being able to play in Toronto, in the AL East, being able to hit in the lineup we had, we knew it was gonna be a better situation for my career. We truly believed I was going to be able to perform at a higher level.”
[RELATED: Blue Jays' Donaldson earns AL MVP honor]
With the A’s, Donaldson notched a fourth-place MVP finish in 2013 and he was an All-Star Game starter in 2014. This past season, hitting in Toronto’s loaded lineup, he flourished to the tune of a .297 batting average, 41 home runs, 123 RBI and 122 runs for the AL East champs.
But his A’s influences still stick with him. During his MLB Network interview right after he was announced as the winner, Donaldson mentioned Jonny Gomes, a teammate with the 2012 A’s, who instilled in him a more aggressive mindset while batting.
Though people talk most about the star he eventually blossomed into with Oakland, it often gets lost in the shuffle that Donaldson struggled just to break through in the bigs. He arrived to the A’s as a catcher in a 2008 trade from the Cubs, one of four players obtained for pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin.
Donaldson struggled to climb the totem pole at catcher, so he went to the Dominican Republic and played winter ball after the 2011 season with the intent of learning third base. The following spring, the A’s lost regular third baseman Scott Sizemore to a knee injury and Donaldson made a position switch that would send him down an MVP path.
But even as a catcher struggling to distinguish himself in the A’s farm system, Donaldson projected a noticeable self-confidence when talking to reporters during spring training.
“Even before I became a major leaguer and got to the big leagues, I would have told you -- I don’t know if MVP was (a goal) -- but I would have told you I had a chance to be an All Star,” he said Thursday. “… I had to learn more about myself, and learn what kind of player I wanted to be. I knew what I wanted to be. I really didn’t know how to be it.”