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Photo Credit: © Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Donaldson is killing it so far this year

The rain is finally being brought to Atlanta. After a slow start to the season, Josh Donaldson has been dominant as of late. The former MVP went three-for-five with a couple of bombs in Atlanta’s 11-5 win over Cleveland last night and owns a slash line of .270/.400/.500 for the season.

As Jonah Birenbaum points out, Donaldson’s not-really-unexpected turnaround this year makes the decision to deal him for virtually nothing prior to the trade deadline last year all the more curious. The Jays, of course, took a gamble with Donaldson, opting to not trade him in the off-season due to the slight chance he could help the team compete in the 2018 season. That didn’t work out, Donaldson got hurt, the team sucked, and he ended up getting sent to Cleveland at the end of August for a whatever prospect in Julian Merryweather.

It seemed given his declined value that tendering Donaldson a qualifying offer would make a lot of sense for the Blue Jays. Doing so would, at the very least, give the organization another chance to deal him at a higher point of value than where he was at last August.

When it became apparent the Jays weren’t interested in keeping Donaldson around, I wrote about how puzzling it was: 

I had always figured, given Donaldson’s injury and his subsequent decrease in value, that simply qualifying him made the most sense for the organization. At best, he accepts it and comes back on a one-year show me deal. If he’s healthy and mashes like he can, maybe the Jays contend for a wild card spot. If they still suck, then they can make the trade in 2019 they weren’t able to make in 2018. Even if he doesn’t accept, Toronto would still get a compensatory draft pick out of it, which, at this point could potentially be more valuable than whatever they managed to get back for him in a trade. I mean, given what the Tigers managed to get for JD Martinez last year during an All-Star campaign, I can’t imagine the return for a rental Donaldson would be very exciting.

This is extremely strange to me. You’d think that the Jays would be all over qualifying Donaldson at this point. I mean, if you keep Donaldson around, you’re telling the fanbase you’re interested in competing in 2019 when that might not really be the case. That’s obviously a boost for season ticket sales. Beyond that, if you have Donaldson pencilled in as your third baseman, it becomes a hell of a lot easier to justify keeping Vlad in Triple-A to manipulate his service time. I have a feeling nobody is going to buy into any Brandon Drury hype at this point.

All of that still stands. Donaldson is mashing in Atlanta, Brandon Drury’s recent mini hot streak has his OPS up over the *checks notes* .600 mark, and Julian Merryweather hasn’t pitched yet this season.

From the outside, the logic behind being in such a rush to trade Donaldson for pennies on the dollar has always been mind-numbing. Given how obvious it seems that letting him rebuild his value on a qualifying offer was the way to go, you have to wonder if there was something else going on here. Ian Hunter wrote about Dalton Pompey getting bullied back in 2015, so maybe there was something going on that ultimately resulted in the Jays simply not wanting Donaldson around their core of young players.

There has to be something here, right? There’s no way the front office was in that big of a rush to acquire Julian Merryweather that they felt it outweighed giving Donaldson a chance at a rebound season.

  • Player to Be Named Later

    Well, qualifying him would have meant potentially spending nearly 20 mil (18-ish, I think) on a player that might not have been able to play, at all. They could have seen what he had in the tank in Sept – but let’s remember, they had to make a decision before he was back on the field. So they were flying blind. And, lets say that they qualified him and were able to flip him this year – was the prospect they’d get going to be worth the $18 mil investment? Sure – there are ways that it would have worked out great: he plays awesome til July; you only pay half of his salary (9 mil), and you get a great package. But there were a lot of other possible scenarios, including that you pay him 18 mil to be Tulo. They opted for a conservative route, which looks bad a month into 2019. But it was a calculated risk, with a lot of question marks hovering over it. I don’t fault them for taking the arm and moving on. They may have made a gigantic blunder, but we’ll only know in a year – i.e. when we see how Donaldson is over a whole season, and what they have once Merriweather pitches.

    • Sovtechno

      Not only that, but you’d have to find somewhere for all of these guys to play. Vlad needs to play third every day. Donaldson would want to play third every day. He surely wouldn’t be happy DHing in a contract season.

  • Warren

    I find the timing of the Donaldson bullying rumours to be curiously timed to coincide with his breakout in Atlanta, having Pompey being sanctioned by Meacham at the time that Donaldson was being given to Cleveland for their playoff run. Why didn’t we hear about Pompey being bullied right after the trade to Cleveland?