The Toronto Blue Jays will have a decision to make about the future of Josh Donaldson and there are a number of outlets trying to get out ahead of the story.
The Toronto Blue Jays don’t have a whole lot to look forward to these days. The playoff race has ended long ago, so we look ahead to the offseason. For a while now, the belief is that the front office is looking at 2018 as a year where they can contend. IF that is the case, they have a lot of work to do. The rotation, the outfield, the bullpen, the infield all have question marks of varying urgency. Despite that, if you look around the internet these days, you would think that there is only one priority: decide the future of Josh Donaldson.
Mike Axisa of CBS Sports writes that Toronto should at least entertain the idea of trading Donaldson. There is no doubt that the return would be rather significant. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports writes that a trade is unlikely. The oddest is from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe who says that Donaldson used to dive into stands and now doesn’t even run out ground balls, so the team could listen to offers him, which implies they don’t want him around, which…we’ll just let that one hang out there in the air… Sure they team could listen to offers, but it sure as heck isn’t because they don’t want him around.
The Donaldson narrative is everywhere lately. Some outlets might take shots at people trying to get out ahead of stories like this and accuse writers of stirring up drama or forcing hot takes. We’ll leave that to them. The fact of the matter is that while the stories and articles might be a tad early, the front office really does have to address the contract situation of the Bringer of Rain. And, if we set aside personal feelings, it might not be as easy as we think.
Recently, club president, Mark Shapiro made some interesting comments about whether the team would look to possibly retain the 31 yr old third baseman’s services. In short, he said that sometimes a team has to consider a player’s popularity – which really means their ability to put butts in seats – when looking to decide on contracts. It was an odd moment of recognition that fan opinion does impact contract decisions. This might come across as good news for folks who are worried that rain would fall for another team.
That said, we also know that any smart front office would listen on every player on their roster. The Angels would listen on Mike Trout if the conversation were serious and big enough. But, listening is a far cry from shopping. That is even if Toronto is interested in parting ways with Donaldson. So, there are a number of ways this can play out.
Winter of Discontent (?)
There are a few ways this winter could go. Firstly, the team could (and hopefully will) explore a contract extension. At 31 yrs old (he’ll be 32 in December), Donaldson would likely be looking for what could be the last contract of his career, which means he’ll look for as much as possible. Currently making $17M, free agency could look very appealing. And, why not? Consider this: since 2013 (according to Fangraphs) Donaldson has been worth $56.3M, $50.2M, $70.1M, $61M and his shortened 2017 has been worth $27M thus far.
He is one of the hottest commodities in baseball and will look to be paid as such. Would the Blue Jays be able to match that? Remember that they have major commitments to Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki over the next couple of years that are rather hefty. As well, they’re seeing what happens to players in decline play out right in front of them with Jose Bautista. This is possibly a high risk move that the club could shy away from, as painful as that might be.
Secondly, as some rumors would have you believe, a trade could be explored. This would likely happen if a) the Blue Jays feel that they have a slim chance of signing Donaldson long term and b) as Heyman points out, the return helps them compete in 2018. It is hard to imagine that the latter would actually happen. Can we really envision a scenario where Donaldson is removed from this team and the replacement(s) put the team in a better position? If the other team has pieces that would make Toronto better than when they had Donaldson, they would be ridiculously silly to part with them. That said, Axisa lists the Red Sox, Yankees (vomit), Angels, Mets, Cubs, Giants and Cardinals as possible trade partners. So, there’s a market.
Wait and See
One of the least sexy approaches in baseball is the ‘wait and see’ method. But, we have to remember that, right now, the Blue Jays have Donaldson locked up for 2018, so in some sense, there isn’t pressure to rush into anything, even if reports suggest there is. There are also a couple of ways this could go for Toronto.
The team could let things ride and see just how well their attempts at competing in 2018 go. They could take on whatever he makes in his 4th year of arbitration, focus elsewhere to augment their roster and roll the dice. If the plans don’t work and they club finds themselves out of things in July, then Donaldson becomes a pretty nice trade chip – admittedly, not as nice a chip as he would be this winter. This approach allows the team to follow through with their promise to compete with one of the best players in baseball on their side.
The even less attractive option is that Ross Atkins could decide that letting Donaldson play out the year (hopefully, the team is in contention and we can all focus on that) and try and sign him at the end of the season. This might happen if the July landscape doesn’t yield the type of return the club hopes for. At the end of the year, the Blue Jays could offer him a Qualifying Offer, which he would reject. This would net them a draft pick should he sign elsewhere next winter.
This is a major risk, as we saw with Edwin Encarnacion. Once 29 other teams enter the bidding, things become much more difficult. This method could net the Blue Jays a measly draft pick for Donaldson, which would be the worst possible scenario in all of this. But, for a front office that is methodical, logical and not prone to flights of fancy, this very well could play out. It is not overly likely, but…
The Josh Donaldson talk has begun. By the time something actualy happens, the only guarantee is that we’ll be sick of hearing about it. It is not hard to tell what fans of the Blue Jays would most likely want to see happen. But, it remains to be seen if that matches the front office’s methods. That said, we’d love to hear your take on all of this. Take our poll below and tell us what you would do with the Bringer of Rain.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.