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Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

A Mildly Terrifying Thought From the ‘Donaldson Available, Under One Condition’ Non-Story

If you could change font size in a tweet, I get the felling that Jon Heyman would have made some serious use of some sweet 4.5pt in the back half of this gem:

As I said at the time, the condition is plainly obvious. Any deal, Heyman reports, would have to make the 2018 version of the Blue Jays better. (As I also said at the time: holy shit, even if it is a complete non-story, go click that link and look at the header image — I have never seen JD look so old, nor so oddly like Gregg Zaun/Mark Buehrle. Yes, our Josh has joined Buehrle-esque club. *GROAN*)

Making the Jays better with a Donaldson trade seems rather untenable — as Heyman points out, and as Mike Axisa of CBS Sports elaborated on in a post this morning. Yet one wonders if there’s perhaps a distinction between “making the Jays better” and “allowing the front office to sell the trade as making the Jays better.”

That’s where Axisa’s piece really comes in, as even though he addressed the unlikelihood of a trade doing the former, he considered a few scenarios with teams that could potentially be suitors. And that’s where I got a bit of a chill.

The Red Sox and Yankees were noted as teams that could certainly use Donaldson as an elite one-year stopgap before their own big time third base prospects, Rafael Devers and Gleyber Torres (who, sorry Jays fans, wouldn’t be going the other way in a deal), would be ready to take the mantle. But that wasn’t what stopped me in my tracks. The Jays aren’t sending Donaldson to the Yankees or the Red Sox — almost no matter what. (I know it’s just a year, but I truly can’t imagine that). There’s a part of me — a small, fearful, probably stupid part of me — that could imagine this, though:

Another potential suitor: the [Cleveland baseball franchise]. The club figures to lose Carlos Santana to free agency this offseason, meaning they could stick Donaldson at third, slide Jose Ramirez over to second base, and use Jason Kipnis at first. Or perhaps trade Kipnis as part of the Donaldson deal, since the Blue Jays want MLB ready players in return. It’s an interesting thought. The [Clevelands] are right smack in their window of contention. The window isn’t getting any more option [sic]. Donaldson would be a big help in 2018.

Kipnis, who turns 31 next spring, is signed for 2018 and 2019 at $13.67 and $14.67 million respectively, and has a $16.5 million option for 2020. He’s been trash this year, at 78 wRC+, but put up marks of 123 and 115 in the previous two years, being worth nearly five wins in each. In his big league career he’s only ever played at second base, but surely he could handle a corner outfield spot if Devon Travis is actually healthy enough to force him there (or vice versa). If he bounces back, that’s a pretty nice return for the Jays in 2018. It obviously doesn’t make the Jays better, but throw in an arm or two from the upper minors and maybe you can sell it.

Bigger than Kipnis, though, is just the idea of Cleveland as a trade partner in the abstract. It doesn’t have to be him, it could be some other package. I mean, obviously there are players in that organization that Shapiro and Atkins really like, really believe in, and will feel comfortable that they have an excellent read on. Plus, though I have no doubts they’d try as much as possible to keep it out of their decision-making, there would almost have to be some kind of sentimental aspect for those guys, helping out people they genuinely like (or “love,” as Shapiro said about his relationship with Chris Antonetti in the MLB.com interview I wrote about this week).

The optics of it would be fucking awful — albeit still better than sending Donaldson to another team in the division — especially given how quick the cretins of this fan base are to jump on any perceived Cleveland connection and shout “cronyism!” (presumably mispronouncing it). But I dunno… does it seem so totally implausible? It certainly seems more plausible than Boston or New York, to me at least.

Still, maybe someone comes at them with a better offer. Or maybe no contender is willing to part with nearly enough big league ready talent to satisfy them and the Jays keep Donaldson and hope that, if they’re out of contention come July, they’ll be able to trade him for more than the goddamn Tigers got for J.D. fucking Martinez.

Better yet, maybe the Jays capitalize on the fact that there will be no better time to extend Donaldson than this very winter, when they’ll be able to put a deal in front of him for his age-32 to 36 seasons that should look really comparable to what he could get by going to arbitration one last time with them before hitting free agency at 33 — and without the risk of having an injury-plagued 2018 sink a shitload of his value. Even at twice the price and twice the term, I’d sure as hell rather him than Jason Kipnis. And unless the contract goes bad in years one or two, they’ll be out from under the vast majority — if not all — of the Martin and Tulo money by the time it does.

Yeah. That’s it. That’s the one. Just re-sign him already.*

 

*It has come to my attention lately that there are actually Jays fans out there (smart ones, even!) — likely scarred by Tulo’s rapid decline, the near-miss on José “more than six years, more than $150 million” Bautista, the odd nagging injury to have befallen Donaldson these past couple seasons, and perhaps even watching from afar the Red Sox’ near instant regret on David Price (who we all wanted so desperately) — that would maybe prefer that the Jays not re-sign the 2015 AL MVP. This, I assure you, is fucking ludicrous.
  • ErnieWhitt

    I would sell the shit out of Donaldson if Rafael Devers or Gleyber Torres were on the table.

    If they aren’t then the Yanks of BoSox would have to load up on prospects to make it worthwhile. The Yankees have something like 5 other prospects in the top 100 on a couple lists, so I wouldn’t close the door on them. It would have to be a fleecing to make the trade, but if you can fleece your opponent for 1 year of Donaldson (assuming they do not intend to extend him) then I say go for it. That is partially how the Yankees and Red Sox turned their franchises around without intentionally tanking for half a decade.

      • ErnieWhitt

        It was a comment on a hypothetical situation. “if we assume they will not extend him then..” If they intend to extend him, then ignore my comments about what the return should be, since there would be no trade.

        My point was that if they do not intend to extend him, there are inter-divisional trades that I would make… though in most video games you would definitely need to select “force trade” for them to happen.

      • Also: what fruits have been borne of the Yankees and Red Sox’ recent trading away of impending free agents just yet? The Yankees got a whole lot of pieces for Chapman, Miller, and McCann, but the big ones — Frazier and Torres — haven’t made an impact yet. And those were guys (the first two, at least) dealt in July who were free agents that winter — like Josh will be next year. And I’m struggling to think who the Red Sox have recently dealt in such a scenario and what impact players they got out of it.

        • ErnieWhitt

          Its a fair point – that Frazier and Torres haven’t impacted the team yet themselves although in my mind Torres is basically penciled into the lineup once he recovers from TJ to his non-throwing arm. I also think that the Yankees are more likely to deal from their position of (relative) strength in the OF knowing they have young guys like Frazier, Cave and Florial (although he’s obviously farther away).

          For the Sox the only one I was thinking of really was Eduardo Rodriguez who was dealt to the Red Sox for Miller before his contract expired in 14 (i think?).

          I’m not advocating trading Donaldson – and certainly not just to replenish the minor league system.. just that if the team wants to re-build on the fly and get younger at the MLB level (which they seem to have said is a priority), the only asset that will bring back that type of haul is Donaldson (assuming they don’t trade young, controlled assets).

      • Deener32

        Jays fans love to think our team has a bottom 5 payroll and can’t compete with the yanks/dodgers/red sox high spending. Toronto leads the league in attendance and have a number of high priced contracts coming off the books this year.

        There is no reason this team should be letting the best position player in franchise history to walk away because of what years 5 and 6 of his contract may look like.

        SIGN THE MAN!

  • jeffc

    The Cleveland trade scenario seems plausible, but I’ve always felt the likely trade scenario would be with the 2017 Jays “twin” in the NL. The SF Giants will enter 2018 with similar expectations as the Jays and a JD trade with Joe Panik & MLB ready pitching coming back always felt like a “win-win” for both teams…. For the record, I’d prefer to keep JD.

  • Just Jeff

    The Cleveland trade would rub the fanbase the wrong way for a lot of reasons, but it could be worse…….Josh would make a mighty fine replacement for Adrian Beltre in Texas, wouldn’t he?

  • Teddy Ballgame

    I wouldn’t rush to call it “fucking ludicrous” to pass on a long term deal if the Jays brass has information about JD’s health – and they’d know better than almost anyone – that makes them shy about ponying up long term…

    • lukewarmwater

      Exactly Teddy we only have the following exhibits, Martin, Tulo, Bautista over the past few years and the man who hasn’t played healthy for the past few seasons, Pearce who is once again having health problem.
      Donaldson plays the game only one way. Namely flat out running into the wall. The former M.V.P. plays a style that has led to an increasing number of injuries. I don’t see the Jays giving him a long term deal precisely do to the strong possibility of future injuries.

    • What possible information would they have?

      He’s never had surgeries here, he’s hardly been hurt so badly that they’ve felt he’d need time off. What do you think would be in his medicals? What might any injury he’s had be pointing to as a long-term health concern?

      Like, I get being a little bit wary, as you should on anybody your team is considering giving a huge, long-term contract to, but 31 is not the new 40.

      • lukewarmwater

        So at age 34, what kind of seasons did Happ have, hmmmm on injury list for an extended time. How was Estrada at age 34???? , yes indeed inconsistent. Funny how the Jays had to use catcher after catcher after catcher as father time catches up on Martin who similar to most catchers is having problems by age 34. How is he doing these days, what’s that you say he is injured again. How is Joey Batts performing these days trying to keep his average above 200 at age 37. Tulo you ask about, why he at age 34 is injured again. I see Pearce has back problems again. The most games he has played in recent years is 106. But you as usual are right Andrew, J.D. will simply go to Lourdes every year and avoid future injuries. Btw I marvel at him playing hurt for much of the year as has been indicated by his slumps. Now he has been healthy for about a month and surprise, surprise he has been his dominating old self. Trust me Stoeten like any other athlete father time takes no favorites and will catch up on Josh as he particularly plays an old style of baseball of taking no prisoners and there is no wall he won’t go through to make the play. Thus the Jays management has the intelligence of not offering him a long term contract. Sorry the old steroid era is over and thus guys 34, 35, 36 are showing significant decline in their seasonal average. It is what it is, I’m surprised you haven’t clued in.

      • Teddy Ballgame

        No major injuries requiring a long DL stint or any surgeries – absolutely correct. However, you don’t have to have either of those things for there to be evidence of physical decline, particularly for a player who plays as wonderfully all out as JD does. The bat gets a tick slower, the legs don’t have the same spring, and next thing you know you go from being boss to being just a guy. And in an era where baseball…you know…actually tests for stuff the number of players who keep being elite deep into their thirties has severely leveled off.

        Now, I’m not meaning to suggest that the Jays medical/high performance staff HAVE come across information that shows that JD is in decline, or has beat up his body so much that he won’t be an asset on a long term deal. If they think 2017 was an aberration, by all means give him 4 years or so. But I’m reasonably confident if that Shapiro and Company decide NOT to up JD long term, then they’ve got solid baseball reasons for not doing so.

  • Holly Wood

    Atkins made the right call on not giving into Jose, so at this point I think he will likely trade Donaldson rather than extend him a mega contract. The Tulo and Martin contracts are all the justification he needs to make that call

  • rfl22

    Josh Donaldson is realistically going to be the best player on a championship contender for about 2 more years before he can’t be that guy anymore. I just don’t think that the Blue Jays are currently constructed to be competitive in that time frame. Even if we assume no regression from Smoak, two great offensive talents aren’t enough especially with the starting pitching being such a question mark. So I think trading Donaldson (and Smoak) makes sense because they have more value to a current competitor than the Jays right now. The Jays should be looking at 2019-20 when Guerrero Jr. and Bichette make it to start spending money and competing again (basically what the Cubs did).
    Sidenote – you could resign Donaldson with the intent of having him essentially be the Ben Zobrist of your next contender i.e. third or fourth best player but gets paid because you’re getting a lot of value from players on rookie deals, but it’s risky and you lose out on the return you’d receive by trading him but its a thought.