The Toronto Blue Jays just got a deal done with Josh Donaldson. Sooner rather than later, they will have to decide if they want to hammer out another pact with him — or for him.
The two sides recently agreed to a one-year, $23 million settlement, as Toronto avoided going to arbitration with one of the best players of the last half-decade for a record cost. With Donaldson set for free agency next winter, however, it’s unclear what the Blue Jays plan on doing with him.
A long-term deal makes some sense, but Donaldson is 32 years old and his agent, Dan Lozano, has a penchant for getting over-30 stars lengthy contracts, as John Lott of The Athletic notes. There’s no doubt Donaldson wants to cash in like fellow Lozano-represented veterans Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Joey Votto, especially with a game-wide spending spree expected to greet next winter’s jam-packed free-agent class.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, would quiver at the thought of comparable contracts — only Votto’s 10-year, $225 million deal worked out thus far, and he still has six years to go, signed at age 30. Howard’s deal — five years, $125 million signed at age 32 — is a better benchmark, but that may not be enough years for Donaldson and too much money for Toronto at the end of his career.
Per The Athletic, Donaldson said there have been no long-term talks to his knowledge. The organization, meanwhile, is playing it close to the vest.
“We’re running a business, so that’s the best thing for us, to stay away from those details,” general manager Ross Atkins said.
The other option is to trade Donaldson, a choice that, frankly, should be favored considering Toronto is in no position to contend in the immediate future. The Yankees and Red Sox are poised for years of success thanks to youthful foundations, and the Blue Jays have questions in the outfield, rotation, and up the middle.
If the organization is thinking big picture, it should be looking to trade whatever veteran pieces it can for controllable talent. Toronto has already acquired such players this offseason — Randal Grichuk, Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Díaz — but could get more if it moved Donaldson.
Of course, the Jays could always test the waters, see how the first half of the season goes and then make a decision before the deadline. There are not a ton of contenders that need a third baseman and would shell out the money to re-sign him. An exception, Jon Heyman points out, is the St. Louis Cardinals.
However, if the Blue Jays can’t find a suitable deal this winter, they risk Donaldson’s value going down at the deadline. At that point, he becomes a half-year rental, which would hurt the package going up north.
So, Toronto should be diligent with the time it has left this winter. Whether that means trading him or signing him to an extension, it’s in the team’s best interest to have Donaldson’s future figured out before the season starts. If that doesn’t happen, the Blue Jays can keep trying to reach an agreement or deal him by the deadline.
What Toronto can’t do, however, is let Donaldson enter free agency as a member of the team. If no deal has been reached by then, it’s easy to see other teams outbidding the Blue Jays on the open market.
If it gets to that point, Toronto will walk away with nothing. One way or another, the Blue Jays can’t let that happen.