When I first began writing this piece on Josh Donaldson, I approached it with the belief that Toronto needed to sign him to a long-term contract. Heck, if the Blue Jays were willing to sign a 33-year old Edwin Encarnacion just last off-season to a 4-year $80 million contract, surely they’d be OK offering a similarly aged Donaldson something in the 5-year range at $25 million/season.
Until he either re-signs with the Blue Jays, is traded, or signs with another club upon hitting free agency, the question as to what to do with Donaldson will remain the most important decision Toronto has to make. After examining all the pros and cons as to how to approach the Donaldson question, I’m starting to lean towards moving him now…and here’s my explanation why.
It’s going to be hard enough as it is for the Blue Jays to remain competitive over the next few seasons with so much of their payroll committed to aging veterans like Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, and Troy Tulowitzki. Does it make sense for Toronto to offer another monster contract for a soon to be 32-year old 3rd baseman when they already have such an old team to begin with? Toronto also can’t ignore the fact that their best prospect and one of the best prospects in all of baseball, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. also plies his trade at 3rd base.
Unfortunately, the Yankees and Red Sox are both good and young now. With talented young players such as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez for Boston, and Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Gleyber Torres for the Yankees (just to name a few), Toronto is going to need more than Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette to carry this offense in the future against such loaded line-ups.
To compete in the AL East, you need to be strong at almost every position. Back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, Toronto had some of the best players in baseball with the likes of Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Vernon Wells, and Roy Halladay. Unfortunately, beyond this group, they had very little team depth and nowhere near the sort of depth needed to compete against such juggernauts as the Yankees and Red Sox.
When it comes to the decision as to what to do about Donaldson, Toronto obviously needs to be thinking beyond the 2018 season. There’s no doubt he can help Toronto compete next year against what will yet again be a stacked division. But even with Donaldson in the fold, the odds are already against the Blue Jays in 2018. I’m not saying they need to give-up on next season already, but if they can get 3-4 solid players now in exchange for Donaldson, as opposed to the 1-2 at the trade deadline, shouldn’t they do so?
At first I thought Toronto should at least hold onto Donaldson until the 2018 trade deadline and decide what to do then depending on whether or not they were in contention. The trouble with that is, say Toronto’s in the playoff hunt come next years trade deadline and have to hold onto Donaldson only to fail to make the post- season, then they lose him for pretty much nothing in free agency.
Just look at what Kansas City did (or more like didn’t do) at this years deadline when they chose to hold onto pending free agents Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain. I commend the Royals for attempting to make one last run with their amazing core group of players, but now the chances of them re-signing any of those three stars is very low and the 3rd round picks they’ll receive as compensation pale in comparison to what they could have received had they traded these players earlier. Not to jump to conclusions, but Kansas City will shortly be without three of their best players (likely scenario), while at the same time find themselves in a division that includes a very strong Cleveland team, the up-and-coming Twins, and the White Sox and Tigers who are well into their extensive rebuilds.
Back in 1995 the Blue Jays chose to hold onto Roberto Alomar, Devon White, Paul Molitor and Al Leiter only to finish the season 55-88 and then have all those players sign with other teams after hitting free agency at the conclusion of the 95′ season. The lack of success Toronto had following 1995 was the price they paid for holding onto such iconic Blue Jays instead of trying to get something for them while they still could. In order to give future Blue Jays such as Guerrero Jr., Bichette, and Teoscar Hernandez (current) as good a chance to compete as possible, they’re going to need all the help they can get, and no player more so than Donaldson can provide Toronto with the influx of young talent they’ll be needing in the years to come.