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:
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) September 8, 2017
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.*