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(Reuters) - The Toronto Blue Jays made a surprise trade for All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Oakland A's on Saturday in a deal which sees four players, including Brett Lawrie, head in the opposite direction.
The move suggests that A's general manager Billy Beane may be in rebuilding mode while Toronto is setting its sights on becoming a major factor in the American League.
As well as third baseman Lawrie, Toronto's young pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin and minor league infielder Franklin Barreto were sent to Oakland.
"We asked if there was any way they would talk about Donaldson, and Billy emphatically told me, no, he's not trading him," said Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who added that a few weeks later they tried 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," added Anthopoulos.
Donaldson batted .255 with 29 home runs and 98 runs batted in 158 games with Oakland last year. He ranked sixth in the American League in walks (76), eighth in runs (93), tied for ninth in home runs and tied for 10th in RBIs and extra base hits (62). He was elected to his first AL All-Star team in 2014.
The 28-year-old is a .268 career hitter with 63 home runs and 228 RBIs in 405 games in four seasons with Oakland.
Lawrie batted .247 with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs in 70 games with Toronto last year after missing most of the final three months of the season due to a broken finger and an oblique strain.
The 24-year-old right-handed hitter was the first-round pick of Milwaukee in 2008 and was traded to Toronto following the 2010 season. He is a .265 career hitter with 43 home runs and 157 RBIs in 345 games.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Gene Cherry