The Toronto Blue Jays pulled a stunning deal late Friday night, trading Canadian third baseman Brett Lawrie and several prospects to the Oakland A's for third baseman Josh Donaldson.
This is not like for like. On its face, this deal seems like simple robbery.
The Jays are a win-now team. Donaldson helps them enormously in that regard. Over the last two seasons, he's been the best third baseman in baseball. It's not even close.
At 28 years old, he's also a player for the future. He's only entering his first arbitration year. He'll be under club control for three more years.
The A's were a surprise package in the playoffs last season. Donaldson was far and away their premier player. He hit .255 with 29 home runs, 98 RBIs and played above average defence. Over the past two years, he's finished fourth and eighth, respectively, in American League MVP voting. He was an all-star last year.
Lawrie, a product of Langley, British Columbia, is younger than Donaldson, but nowhere near as established.
He was highly touted upon arrival from Milwaukee in 2011. He has the full package of talent, but the Brewers were willing to let him go because Lawrie was dogged by questions about his maturity.
Toronto never received suitable answers. When he played, Lawrie was more tantalizing than polished. He was often injured. When he wasn't, he didn't quite fit. As recently as two weeks ago, Jays officials were still talking up his promise.
The club saw him making a long-term switch to second base. Lawrie had made little secret of the fact that the move didn't suit him.
Clearly, there was no appetite within the Toronto organization to give full star treatment to a player who'd never proved himself one. And given the talent the A's were willing to part with, it wouldn't have mattered in any case.
According to published reports, the Jays packaged Lawrie with three minor-league prospects: pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, and shortstop Franklin Barreto. Among them, only Barreto moves the dial right now – ranked the fifth-best prospect in the Jays organization by Baseball America.
It's a head-scratching move on Oakland's part. The Jays just traded a low-grade headache and three mid-level prospects for the best third baseman in baseball.
The deal puts the Jays on top in terms of off-season moves in the American League East. They've already upgraded at catcher with veteran Russell Martin.
Last week, they watched the Red Sox add major offence with two free-agent arrivals – third baseman Pablo Sandoval and likely outfielder Hanley Ramirez. Donaldson is a better producer than either and at a likely arbitration figure of $5-million (U.S.) or so, much, much cheaper.
"This doesn't make sense to me," A's outfielder Josh Reddick told Oakland beat writer Susan Slusser shortly after Friday night's deal. "We just traded our best player the last two years."
Oakland general manager Billy Beane is famous – or infamous – for doing this sort of thing. He capitalizes on a player's value when it's highest, dishing him for a multitude of prospects. On most occasions, you can see the value proposition he's pursuing.
This isn't one of those. It is hard to understand why you'd trade a player of Donaldson's calibre – and yet so young and so controllable – for middling parts. Maybe Beane loves Lawrie. Maybe he's seen something in Barreto & Co. that no one else has yet seen.
That's always possible.
Or maybe he just got took.
Because that's how it looks from the perspective of right now.