In the ten days leading up to the season opener against the Yankees, your friends at BJN will be dropping a #take a day to get you pumped up for the season! Day two: Josh Donaldson.
I really don’t want it to seem like I’m making a hot take to be controversial because that’s what this will likely seem like. But Josh Donaldson won’t be a Blue Jay in 2019. Donaldson, along with Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, and Bryce Harper, is poised to be a headliner in probably the best free agent group ever, and a team other than the actively-seeking-to-get-younger Jays will be the ones ponying up the dollars he’s going to command.
I would be very, very happy to be wrong about this. If this time next year Donaldson is locked into a multi-year deal with the Jays that pays him the money he deserves I would be thrilled for everyone on the internet to dig this up and rub it in my face. Take this content and shove it in a bag filled with expired meat and hit me over the head repeatedly with it.
With a few more years of play, Donaldson would easily end up as the best Blue Jay of all time. He’s already 18th (via Baseball Reference) in Blue Jays all-time WAR after three seasons. It would be great for him to play out the rest of his career in Toronto and it would be even better for him to bring a World Series to the city. If he could do what Adrian Beltre has done and defy the laws of time, he could even end up going into Cooperstown with a Blue Jays cap.
But those are dreams. Realistically, what we have here is exactly what Alex Anthopolous envisioned when acquired Donaldson back prior to the 2015 season. Four controllable, relatively cheap years of an MVP candidate. We’ve had three of those years, and this is going to be the last one.
Since joining the Blue Jays in 2015 in one of the most hilariously lopsided deals we’ll probably ever see (Does Jose Bautista for uhhhh *googles the name of that bullpen catcher* count?), Donaldson has been worth 21.4 wins. Only Kris Bryant and Mike Trout have been worth more and Donaldson played 30 fewer games than Bryant over that time. Only Mike Trout has been more valuable since 2015 than Donaldson. I mean, fuck, I don’t have to hold your hand through understanding how good Donaldson is.
The issue is that he’s going to be 33 years old in his first post-UFA contract season. Being a guy who broke into the league as a late bloomer — he broke into the league as a 27-year-old in 2013 with the Athletics — he’s had to wait until his mid-30s to get paid. In his MVP season in 2015, Donaldson made just $4,300,000, which is hilariously cheap for a player that good. In 2016 he made $11,650,000 after going to arbitration, in 2017 he made $17,000,000, and this year he’ll make $23,000,000.
“We’ve had conversations about it, and I just think that we are not quite there,” Donaldson said in regards to an extension with the Jays back in February. “Not quite there meaning there’s not a deal done and we’re just not there. We’re not in the same type of area, the same ballpark, to make a discussion to moving forward. I believe they want me. If they didn’t want me, we wouldn’t be having any type of discussions leading up to this point. They’ve been very good with the communication process. We just aren’t eye to eye at this moment.”
If I had to venture a guess, I would assume that when he says “the same type of area” that it largely comes down to term. Donaldson is probably looking for a deal that’ll pay him until he retires (duh) and the Jays are probably looking for a deal that isn’t quite so risky long-term for the crash-and-bang-33-year-old-with-a-nagging-calf-issue. That’s just my hunch.
There was talk over the winter about the St. Louis Cardinals being interested in Donaldson. There was no indication a deal was anywhere close to happening but there’s no doubt St. Louis was interested. The Cardinals also struck out this winter on Giancarlo Stanton when he refused to waive his no-trade clause to be dealt to St. Louis.
The Cards are currently using Jed Gyorko as their third baseman, so there’s nobody in the way of Donaldson at that position. They also have a bunch of money owed to Adam Wainwright coming off the books this winter and will have cash to throw around.
I don’t know if the Red Sox will be in the market for Donaldson given the fact they have Rafael Devers at third base, but there could be a spot for him at first. I feel like I’m going to throw up. I bet the Yankees will be in on him, especially if they strike out on Manny Machado, the real free agent prize when it comes to the left side of the infield. That said, they might not have money for him if they end up signing Bryce Harper like everyone just sort of expected. I just vomited.
Yes this is Bryce Harper fawning over being a Yankee.
The Jays do have money coming off the books after the 2019 season. Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin are owed a combined $40 million in 2019, but that’s the final year of Martin’s deal and Tulo slides down to a more manageable $14 after that. But with one of the best prospects in baseball — one who also happens to play third base — realistically not that far away and a handful of guys like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez running out of control years, are the Jays going to get themselves into a bidding war for a guy in his mid-30s?
The heart says yes, the brain says no. Enjoy Josh Donaldson this year, friends.