Josh Donaldson. JDo. The Bringer of Rain. Whatever you call him, no Jays fans can forget Donaldson’s time in Toronto. An instant fan favourite, the all-star third baseman was a major player in the magical 2015 and 2016 playoff runs. He won multiple silver sluggers in Toronto, was an all-star twice, all while playing gold glove level defense at third despite not winning the award. More notably, however, in 2015 Josh became the second Toronto Blue Jay in history to win the AL MVP award joining George Bell in 1987.
From the moment the Jays got Donaldson in November 2014 till he was traded away in 2018, GM Alex Anthopoulos looked like he had hit the ball out of the ballpark. Thus, in 2018, when current GM Ross Atkins traded him away in 2018. Some fans were upset when the return was only a player to be named later however that player to be named later, is likely to become a major part of the team in the coming years. Here’s a look back at how both trading for and trading away Josh Donalson was a win for the Toronto Blue Jays.
November 28th, 2014:
Toronto Receives: 3B Josh Donaldson
Oakland Receives: SP Kendall Graveman, SP Sean Nolin, 3B Brett Lawrie, 2B Franklin Barreto
At the time, the main pieces headed back to Oakland in this deal were Canadian Brett Lawrie and Franklin Barreto who was listed as MLB.com’s 8th best prospect in the Jays system. However, as it turned out, Graveman would benefit Oakland the most.
Brett Lawrie was a hot-headed young third baseman who the Jays got from Milwaukee for Shawn Marcum. Lawrie showed promise and gained many hometown fans in his four years with the team but after going to Oakland, injuries and his anger caught up with him. One year after joining Oakland, he was shipped to the White Sox for Zach Erwin and J.B. Wendelken. Lawrie played in 94 games with Chicago in 2016 before getting sent down to the minors where he would ultimately stay for the rest of his career.
Sean Nolin made 6 starts with Oakland in 2015 posting a 5.28 ERA over 29 innings before getting sent down to the minors. Nolin was waived in 2016 and picked up by the Brewers which started a trend of bouncing around the minors for him. Likely a career minor leaguer, Nolin currently resides in the Nationals’ system.
Franklin Barreto was seen as a depth second baseman with some potential but due to his youth, he only first cracked into the league in 2017. Through 95 MLB games with Oakland from 2017-2020, Barreto managed a .175 average and 29 RBIs before being shipped to the Angels for Tommy La Stella.
Lastly, Kendall Graveman was a decent starter for the Athletics from 2015-2018 posting a 23-29 record in 78 games with a 4.38 ERA with 282 strikeouts. But, after a rough 2018 which saw Graveman go 1-5 over 7 games, he signed with the Mariners in 2020 (he didn't pitch in the MLB in 2019) and was traded at the deadline to Houston for IF Abraham Toro and P Joe Smith.
Meanwhile, Josh Donaldson tore it up with the Jays, putting up the best season of his career in 2015 leading him to win the AL MVP award and a playoff berth for the Jays. Over the three and a half seasons he spent as a Jay, Donaldson not only won the MVP but was a two-time all-star, won two Silver Sluggers, hit 116 home runs, drove in 316 runs, and had a .281 batting average.
August 31st, 2018
Cleveland Receives: 3B Josh Donaldson & Cash
Toronto Receives: A Player To Be Named Later (P Julian Merryweather)
After struggling in 2018 and dealing with nagging hamstring issues, the Jays decided to move on from Donaldson and sent to Cleveland for their playoff run. In 16 games for Cleveland, Donaldson hit 3 home runs, 7 RBIs, with a .280 average which for a late-year pickup heading into the playoffs, wasn’t a bad move for Cleveland. However, their playoff run was short-lived as they were swept by the Houston Asteris- I mean Astros in the AL Division round and to make matters worse, Donaldson left in the offseason for Minnesota.
On October 31st, once the season wrapped up, it was announced that the trade had been completed. The player to be named later for the Jays was a starter by the name of Julian Merryweather. Drafted back in 2014, Merryweather hadn’t found his stride until after he joined the Jays organization. Under the stellar development system in Toronto and an excellent Spring Training in 2020, Merryweather found himself as a late callup and he didn’t disappoint. With a livewire fastball and the versatility to be a high leverage or multi-inning reliever, Jays’ fans were excited to see what Merryweather could do in a full 2021 season. Sadly due to injuries, he missed most of the season however the potential is still there for Julian.
While the first Josh Donaldson trade had an immediate impact on the Blue Jays and was an automatic win, the second is a bit harder to define as a win. However, while Cleveland found no playoff success and ultimately lost Donaldson for nothing, Toronto cleared cap room and got in return a project pitcher who is still a valuable asset they can use in their future bullpen. In that sense, the Jays won this deal since they got what they wanted which was a long-term pitcher and Cleveland failed to utilize Donaldson in making a deep playoff run since they got swept in the first round.
The Bringer of Rain will always be remembered as a fan favourite in Toronto and the holder of one of the best single seasons in Blue Jays history, bolstered by his MVP trophy. And not only did the Jays lose nothing of great value to get their star, once they tried to make their run and it was time for a quick rebuild, but they also moved on and got a decent future arm out of the pen while their counterpart got little value in the playoffs.