Home MLB Donaldson dealt as blocks of ice melt

Donaldson dealt as blocks of ice melt

by Matt Smith

MlbHlSqIf cricketer Philip Hughes’ death justifiably makes any other sports news seem inconsequential, his love for cricket also can remind us that sport is one of the great sources of joy and entertainment in our lives.

It may be irrational to care as much as we do about the fortunes of our respective teams, yet the fact that we do is also something to cherish.

Logging onto MLB.com on Saturday morning to find my Oakland A’s had traded away our best player, Josh Donaldson, was one of those moments where rational logic (all players come and go, it’s only a game anyway etc) gets kicked out of the way by sentiment and emotion.

Trading away such a good player when he is still under contract for the next four years at arbitration prices looks an odd move not just at first glance, but even after further consideration.

Trying to make sense of it a couple of days on, I’m drawn to an interview by the Guardian with British cyclist supremo Sir Dave Brailsford in which he quoted some advice by Oakland’s General Manager Billy Beane.

“He [Beane] said every athlete is like a block of ice, and they are melting all the time – if you ever let the whole thing melt on your watch you should be sacked.” Brailsford says: “‘Listen,’ he [Beane] said, ‘if you let a player go and you let him go too early, that’s miles better than keeping him until it’s too late.’ If you see another guy performing well for another team you should think, ‘That’s great, he was good for us, he can be good for someone else.’ Therein lies the challenge.”

Donaldson has been outstanding over the past two seasons, his first two full seasons in the Majors, yet you may not realise he will turn 29 in one week’s time (8 December). This isn’t to say that the Toronto Blue Jays have acquired a player whose performances are about to drop off a cliff, as twenty-nine is not old for a sportsman these days.

However, it does raise the possibility that these past two seasons, maybe alongside his 2015 to come, will be the best of his career in a way that you would less expect had he been about to turn 26 or 27.

To support this theory, consider that the main player received in return by the A’s is an established Major Leaguer in Brett Lawrie who is four years younger than Donaldson.

This deal may be the perfect example of it being better to trade a player a year early rather than a year late.  Or it may be a case of making a bet on a younger but injury-prone player that doesn’t come off.

As with every deal, time will be the judge, but the logic seems to be that Beane would prefer to take his chances with the younger Lawrie (plus three other prospects of varying degrees of potential usefuless) than risking Donaldson melting too quickly on his watch.

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