MLB Rumors: Why Red Sox Are Upset About Indians’ Josh Donaldson Trade

The Cleveland Indians’ trade for Josh Donaldson reportedly ruffled some feathers.

The Indians acquired Donaldson from the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 31, and major league sources told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees voiced displeasure to Major League Baseball about the events that occurred before and after the deal.

WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford confirmed Rosenthal’s report Sunday, with sources telling him the Red Sox indeed are among the teams upset by the trade that sent Donaldson to Cleveland.

The circumstances of the trade are weird: Donaldson was deemed sufficiently recovered from a left calf injury to be placed on revocable trade waivers and get dealt. However, he wasn’t healthy enough to join the Indians right away and therefore was placed back on the disabled list by Cleveland after the trade.

The timing of the trade was significant, because Donaldson needed to be traded by Aug. 31 to be eligible for the postseason. As Rosenthal notes, the Blue Jays and the commissioner’s office certified on Aug. 29 that Donaldson was healthy and capable of performing at his accustomed level — major league rules mandate such for a player who is placed on revocable trade waivers — but the veteran third baseman and his agent then said otherwise, creating some confusion.

Donaldson, who began a rehab assignment on Aug. 29, said he could not play in his second rehab game on Aug. 30 due to leg soreness. Rival officials told Rosenthal that the Blue Jays should have pulled back Donaldson from waivers at that point because he was not healthy. Instead, the game was postponed and Donaldson resumed playing Aug. 31, the day he was traded.

Teams had plenty of reason to be skeptical about Donaldson’s health, especially with him not appearing in a big league game since May 28. Sources told Rosenthal that Donaldson knew he was not physically ready for the majors and feared reinjuring his calf as he approaches free agency this offseason.

A source also told Rosenthal a league official contacted every team with potential interest in Donaldson and issued a warning of “buyer beware.” As such, no team claimed Donaldson on waivers because they didn’t want to risk getting stuck with his remaining salary of nearly $4 million. The Indians subsequently traded for the three-time All-Star after he went unclaimed.

Would things have gone down differently if there wasn’t so much confusion over Donaldson’s health? Perhaps. A team might have claimed Donaldson — to boost its own lineup or to block Cleveland (or another contender) from acquiring the 2015 American League MVP — or offered a better trade package than the Indians. But a cloud of uncertainty instead hung over the situation, in some ways paving the way for Cleveland to acquire the 32-year-old with less competition.

Sources told Rosenthal the Houston Astros — who, like the Red Sox and Yankees, are a World Series contender in the AL —  also asked the commissioner’s office for clarification on why the trade was allowed but were satisfied with the response.

This strange story, of course, will be even more fascinating if Donaldson makes an impact for the Indians in the playoffs, justifying the fears of rival teams.

Thumbnail photo via Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports Images

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