Anthopoulos explains Donaldson trade

Full transcript of Alex Anthopoulos’ conference call with reporters late Friday night:

Have you talked to Donaldson yet?
“I just talked to him, 20 minutes ago, and he was excited. I told him, he reminded me a little bit of Bautista in his swing, he has the leg lift, just kind of his set-up even though he’s closed off in his stance. He said, ‘you know what, I’ve actually been studying Bautista quite a bit.’ He told me that’s when he felt like he really emerged, when he started studying him a
little bit, tried to emulate him. Not the exact swing but there are some similarities there. He’s excited, he’s excited to come here, and win, and hopefully help get this team into the playoffs.”

Toughest part of this deal from your side…
“You know what, I’d say all of it. It’s one of those, you get attached to these guys. Brett’s been here awhile, he’s still so young and you love the way he plays, the energy he brings, I talked to him on the phone and that was a hard conversation. Rightfully so, he was a Toronto Blue Jay through and through. It was 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.

“Obviously, the other guys as well. All of those guys, you draft and develop those guys, whether it’s our Latin Director, Ismael Cruz, who signed Barreto, he really wanted him. I remember Ismail just took the job and he told me this was the one guy he wanted to have, he wanted to sign him, and we went with him. Barreto developed, for us at least, developed into one of the better position prospects in baseball.

“Even a guy like Kendall Graveman, who was a senior sign, later-round pick, Brian Parker, our amateur scouting department and his staff, then player development that gave him a cutter, which he didn’t have. Those are all things. Sean Nolin, Andrew Tinnish was our scouting director at the time, Dana Brown really fought for him in the sixth round. All of those guys, it’s hard when you trade four players for one. We like all of them, we were attached to all of them, but Donaldson has been an outstanding player, very durable guy, performance in the All-Star Game. People talked about WAR and all that stuff but his accomplishments on the field speak for themselves. We’re getting a middle-of-the-order bat and it’s something we need. It was a hard trade but obviously one we felt like we needed to make.

Did you target Donaldson at the beginning of the offseason?
No, because we didn’t expect him to be available. You don’t really target guys with two years of service and four years of control. You just know the likelihood of getting those guys is so rare. We had our offseason meetings, we were at the Fall League, you stay in touch with the GMs, you spend the month of October calling around … From Oakland’s standpoint, you’re not necessarily going to be aggressive with it but it doesn’t hurt to ask. We asked if there was any way they would talk about Donaldson and Billy emphatically told me, ‘no’ he’s not trading him. I understood, four years of control and certainly no rush or no urgency to need to move a guy like that, arbitration eligible for the first time, so we left it at that. I don’t know, it was a few days ago and we were talking again, I asked again, asked if there was any way we could make it appealing for him. It went back and forth and I think when Brett was involved to replace Josh that’s when things started to move a little bit.

“We wanted to keep Brett and add to the team. Clearly, we traded some young kids and guys that have a lot of control from a contractual standpoint, from a salary standpoint, they fit any club but clearly we’re trying to make our team better as soon as we can. Brett was a guy, that he might make some adjustments but he’s done this before and he wins quick, again. He was very specific on it, he needed guys that were going to be close. Barreto is a little farther away but they needed guys who were close that could help them out and Brett was key because he stepped right in at third.”

When was Brett’s availability put on the table?
“I would say … it’s all a blur to be honest with you, I would say maybe Monday or Tuesday. I’d say Monday night and then Tuesday we talked again, Wednesday it got a lot more serious, and then Thursday, Thanksgiving Day we went back and forth quite a bit and then we agreed last night and then we obviously needed to get medicals done and all that kind of stuff.”

On what Donaldson brings…
“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 and a guy that can hit in the middle of our order. He’s going to fit well with Encarnacion and Bautista. I don’t know how John Gibbons will set the lineup up but I’d expect those guys to be somewhere in the middle. Kind of solidifies things in the middle of our order.”

Better offensive club with Martin/Donaldson than you were last year with Lind/Melky?
“You know what, I haven’t studied it. I know what you’re saying. I don’t necessarily want to jump out. I know this sounds like a stock answer but it’s true, we’re just trying to get better at every position that we can. We’re not necessarily trying to replicate anything from last year’s team. We clearly felt we needed to do some things to the offense. I think we talked
about it when we made the move for Lind, we’re going to lose some offense there, he was a great hitter for us. Especially against right-handers, it’s a big loss. Obviously Melky’s a free agent, that’s been talked about to death. We’d love to have him back. But at the same time all of those guys were productive bats for us.

“We’re trying to improve the club offensively, defensively, in the bullpen and the rotation, anywhere we can we’re trying
to get better. I noticed a lot of people are focused on the positional needs, and people can say, well you had a third baseman and that’s true but I don’t know what we had another middle of the order bat to go along with Bautista and Encarnacion and now we do. That was a spot in the lineup of need, if you want to call it that. I still would like to do better from an offensive standpoint but I do feel like we’re improved from what we were a day ago.

Did Brett’s injury history play a role…
“You can 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. No, that didn’t come into play. We really liked Donaldson, we wanted to get him. Those were the players they needed, those were the players they wanted. 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. It takes time to come to terms with that I guess when you’re on the other side, you’re going to give up multiple players and you like all of them but you have to remember the other team needs to be getting talent back, value back. Especially with the way Oakland has done this in the past, and they have, they’ve done an unbelievable job, they get some guys that are on the verge and they perform for them fast. I believe all four of these guys are going to end up doing that for them and I believe Donaldson is
going to come in, play good defense and hit in the middle of their order.”

Beane basically saying you wore him down on a deal…
“I have a pretty good relationship with Billy and that probably starts when JP (Ricciardi) was here, they’re good friends. I got to know him a little bit going to the GM Meetings, even as an AGM. Probably a little more comfortable sending him texts and emails, calling him more often because I have a good relationship with him. He was adamant, he was adamant he was not trading Donaldson and I understood it. But clearly there is always a scenario where it makes sense. The same way we’re adamant when we get asked about certain players about not trading them, but at some point, if someone makes it really compelling you’re going to at least going to hear them out.”

On whether Nolin/Graveman are a better fit in Oakland…
“We like both. We think they have a chance to be very good. Right now, we’ve got our five starters, we think both guys can be pretty good starters. Unless people got hurt, or other trades presented themselves, they probably weren’t going to be in our rotation to start the year. They may have found their way into the rotation that at some point in the year. They may have found their way into the bullpen.

“Long term, you look the contractual control of our rotation, R.A. has a club option beyond this year, this is a free agent year for Buehrle, you still need to have depth. You want to be more than five deep and that’s where those young guys that have options are just so important for you. I think they would have factored for us in time but, again, the way we’re set
up and the fact that we can have Donaldson for four years and we can have that position locked down and we’ve got a middle of the order right-handed power bat, which is getting harder to find, we have that locked down for four years. Especially with some of the other depth of the arms, it was a deal we felt like we had to make.”

Fair to say Lawrie didn’t develop as you would have hoped?
“No, I don’t think that’s fair at all. I think it’s wrong. I think Brett is a very, very good player and he can get even better. He’s a Gold Glove caliber defender at third, he energizes his teammates, he plays hard, he plays to win. I think the expectations on him were so high because of his six-week period when he came up the first time and hit nine home runs in 100-some-odd at-bats. I know some like to take those numbers and prorate them and assume he’s going to hit 40. He was a 21-year-old kid and he’s going to play next year, I think he’s going to turn 25 next year, he’s still incredibly young.

“Even the number of at-bats he had at the Minor League level, he rocketed through the Minor Leagues. Brett is young in so many ways, from a baseball standpoint and a development standpoint. He was so talented that he got up here so early, he still has to go out and do it on the field but he’s already an outstanding player and he absolutely has the ability to take it
to another level and become the All-Star. I don’t think the book is closed on him at all and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens soon.”

Donaldson/Martin, can those enhance your ability to deal with free agents…
“I don’t know. I know from Martin’s standpoint, I heard it from a few agents, they felt it was a statement … especially relievers and starters. I think we became a more desirable place, at least that’s what I was told, and a lot of people that are well respected are interested in playing with him and also throwing to him. Donaldson, I have no idea. It’s 11:30 on a Friday
night and this thing just got done about an hour ago. We’ll see. I don’t know what their reaction will be but that’s not something we factor into the decision making. If it happens and it’s a by-product, great, but clearly we all make deals to try to win games. Hopefully free agents and agents realize that either way, we’re going to try to get better.”

It’s early but any consideration to trying to lock up Donaldson long term…
“We haven’t even thought about that. When you have four years of control you don’t even need to consider that stuff, think about that stuff. Even if we thought at any point in time about giving anybody any type of contract offer, extension, we’d never divulge that, we would keep that completely to ourselves. I can say at this point, four years is plenty, four years is a
long time. You look at the extension we gave Encarnacion, it was three years plus an option, which gave us four years of control. Four years is a long time and it’s not even on our radar at this point.”

Would you say it’s fair that when you talked to Brett and Josh that they were shocked?
“Yeah, yeah. And rightfully so. I sincerely believe Billy had no intention of trading him and we certainly had no intention of trading Brett. The only way guys like that get traded is if they end up being in a deal for themselves. I think there was no doubt it was a surprise to both but obviously it’s not the first time there have been deals come out of nowhere when no one
expected them to happen.”

On Brett’s reaction…
“He was surprised but he was outstanding. He understood. Sad to see him go, but I told him, certainly the organization, everybody appreciated the way he plays, everything he did while he was here and I think he really wanted to be a part of this. Like I mentioned earlier, I think Brett was all about the Toronto Blue Jays and doing whatever he could to help us make it. It’s hard, it’s hard for us to see him go. It wasn’t a phone call I looked forward to. He leaves it all out on the field, he leaves everything he has and you love that about him. He energizes his teammates, Gold Glove defender. It’s tough
because you do spend time with these guys, you get attached to them. It was hard for him and hard for us to see him go.”

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