TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays had to send Canadian third baseman Brett Lawrie south of the border to move their team forward.
Lawrie, from Langley, B.C., was traded from Toronto to the Oakland Athletics on Friday for all-star third baseman Josh Donaldson. Shortstop Franklin Barreto as well as pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman were also sent to Oakland as part of the deal.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said it was very difficult to trade the 24-year-old Lawrie, who hit .247 with nine doubles, 12 home runs and 38 runs batted in through 70 games last season. He hit .265 with 61 doubles, 43 home runs and 157 RBIs over four years with Toronto.
"You get attached to these guys," said Anthopoulos. "Obviously, Brett's been here a while and he's still so young and you love the way he plays, the energy he brings. I talked to him on the phone and it was a hard conversation. Rightfully so, he was a Toronto Blue Jay through and through. Tough to see him go.
"We would have loved to have kept him. We tried. But I don't think this deal was getting done without Brett."
Athletics GM Billy Beane confirmed in a separate conference call that the deal would not have proceeded without the inclusion of Lawrie and all three prospects.
"We wouldn't have done the deal unless it addressed now and the future and they were able to do that. This deal in our minds addresses a little bit of everything," said Beane. "It got pretty serious the last 48 hours. They were reluctant to give up all four players and we weren't going to do it without those four players in the deal."
The 28-year-old Donaldson finished eighth in AL MVP voting this year after hitting .255 for Oakland with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs. A right-handed hitter, Donaldson had a .342 on-base percentage while finishing sixth in the American League with 76 walks. He has a career batting average of .268 with 63 home runs and 228 RBIs and a .347 on-base percentage in 405 games.
Anthopoulos also pointed to Donaldson's intangibles and how he would mesh with the rest of the Blue Jays batting order as factors in the deal.
"He's a very good defensive player. Gamer, hard-nosed, durable, if you look at his games played the last two years. An intense guy, wants to win," said Anthopoulos. "A guy that can hit in the middle of our order. He's going to fit well with (Edwin) Encarnacion and (Jose) Bautista.
"I don't know how (manager) John Gibbons will set the lineup up, but I expect those guys to be somewhere in the middle. He'll just kind of solidify things in the middle of our order."
Lawrie struggled with injuries throughout his time in Toronto, including breaking his hand this past season when he was hit by a pitch. He also ended the 2014 season on the Blue Jays' 60-day disabled list with an oblique strain. Anthopoulos was quick to point out that many of Lawrie's injuries were accidental and that they played no role in Toronto's decision to trade him.
"Put the obliques aside, but some of the injuries have been freak. Getting hit in the hand, those are some freak injuries. Guys throw and you break your hand," said Anthopoulos. "No, (the injuries) didn't come into play. We really liked Donaldson. We wanted to get him. Those were the players that they needed, those were the players that they wanted.
"Ultimately, as much as you don't want to part with those guys, you're going to have to give up some pretty good players to get a guy like Donaldson."
Nolin, 24, spent most of the 2014 season with triple-A Buffalo where he posted a 4-6 record with a 3.50 earned-run average in 17 starts. The left-hander appeared in one game for Toronto in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons, posting a 0-1 record and a 27.00 ERA.
Graveman had a 14-6 record and a 1.83 ERA in 27 starts with four of the Blue Jays' minor league affiliates, working his way up from single-A to Buffalo. The 23-year-old right-handed pitcher was 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in five relief appearances for Toronto last season.
The 18-year-old Barreto hit .311 last season for the single-A Vancouver Canadians with 23 doubles, six home runs and 61 RBIs in 73 games. In his two minor league seasons Barreto has hit .296 with 10 home runs and 61 RBIs.
"One of the hardest things about our game, saying goodbye to a great person, amazing teammate and friend! You will be missed! @blawrie13," said Bautisa from his verified Twitter account in a message that was retweeted by Lawrie.
"In contrast, we also get to welcome a new member to our squad!! Come on @BringerOfRain20 let's get those leg kicks going!!" added Bautista in a second tweet, referring to Donaldson's Twitter account.
Anthopoulos applauded Lawrie's professionalism in taking the news of being traded.
"He was surprised, but he was outstanding and he understood. Sad to see him go," said Anthopoulos. "I told him that the organization, everyone really appreciated the way he plays, everything he did while he was here. I think he really wanted to be part of this.
"Brett was all about the Toronto Blue Jays and doing whatever he could to help us."
With files from The Associated Press
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