I mean, you’ve already read the money quotes in the title of this piece, but one more time, for the sake of formality, here’s what Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch told his readers on Wednesday:
As the Cardinals continue their search for bullpen help, perhaps another hitter and maybe a starter, word in Toronto is that the Blue Jays haven’t really made any attempt to lock down star third baseman Josh Donaldson to a long-term deal and may be agreeable to moving him.
Thing is, I’m not sure we can just assume that a St. Louis reporter has sources deep in the Jays’ front office on the attempting-to-re-sign-Donaldson front. There does seem to be a sense that not much negotiating has yet happened between the Jays and their best player, largely, I think, because the two sides have an arbitration case upcoming, and it seems only natural that that’s when they’ll get most serious about it.
Granted, maybe that’s just a convenient excuse for the front office, and for those of us who want to hold out hope that they’ll actually eventually come to an agreement. But whatever the case, I don’t know that we believe the Jays are disinterested based on a casual line in a trade speculation piece coming out of St. Louis. Consider also how very tight-lipped Ross Atkins was when asked about the meeting Donaldson had at the end of the season, where Donaldson claims to have said he told the club that remaining in Toronto is his first choice. I could be wrong on this, but if an extension happens, I don’t think we’re going to hear about it for a week beforehand.
And as for the club being “agreeable to moving him,” though the Jays have continued to insist that they’d have a very hard time getting better by moving their best player, there really are no “untouchables” these days. So, in the most technical sense, any team is probably “agreeable” to moving anybody, if it’s for the right price. Maybe I’m just trying to read the things I want to into this, but that seems to be where this whole story is at. It’s not like the Cardinals don’t know what the situation here is, and so it’s not strange to think that they could find a way to offer the Jays enough 2018 value, enough prospect value, and enough years of control beyond Donaldson’s one to at least put a package together that will make the Jays think.
And maybe the Jays get there. I can’t blame the Cardinals for trying to push them in that direction. Especially with the Yankees and the Angels loading up, maybe St. Louis thinks there’s an opportunity to change the Jays’ minds about how important it is to try to be competitive in 2018 — or that the changes to the AL landscape offer the Jays a chance to sell taking a step backwards to their players and fans. A lot of fans are receptive to the idea already. But for the most part I think this was always the case.
So are we really getting anything new at all in Hummel’s eye-catching statement? I’m not so sure.
A Major League Baseball source familiar with the Jays said Toronto probably would want two major leaguers — such as a third baseman and a starting pitcher — and a prospect. The Cardinals have two starting third basemen in Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko. They also have a spare outfielder in power hitter Randal Grichuk.
The Cardinals also have young starting pitching, but would they risk it for the possibility of only one year of Donaldson, who had 33 homers last season while missing nearly 50 games because of injury? Two or more prospects would seem to be something the Cardinals would not do with Toronto.
That’s pretty close to the Dave Cameron proposal, which I’ve said from the get-go makes some sense — or, more specifically, that “at the very least it does look like a viable way to move the Jays’ best player without getting so much worse in the near term as to render keeping all sorts of other veterans and free-agents-to-be completely pointless.” The idea of getting something from St. Louis that could be flipped for someone like Christian Yelich would be even better, I think. But the Jays can be demanding here — can and should. As much as some fans are eager to say otherwise, they don’t have to either re-sign Donaldson or deal him ASAP. Moving him in July remains a viable option, albeit with a lower return likely (and risk that his health, his performance, or a lack of buyers with a third base need worsens that outcome significantly). The Cardinals themselves might still be looking for an impact bat at that point. Or maybe the Jays will be in strong enough position as to not want to sell.
Crazier things have happened, and many paths for this club to still get a whole lot better this winter still remain. Moving Donaldson is one way to ensure the club isn’t better in 2018, but the choice to do it for the years ahead surely must still be tempting. I don’t think I’d be surprised by any outcome at this point.