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August 21, 2018

Josh Donaldson: Should He Stay or Should He Go?

2015 American League MVP.  Feels like a lifetime ago that Josh Donaldson took the baseball world by storm in his first season as a Blue Jay. Now in 2018, the third basemen has been out since May 28th with a left calf strain and it seems as if that MVP player is all but gone.

With this being the last year of his contract, the Jays need to figure out if Josh Donaldson still has the ability to not only be an impactful player on the team, but an impactful player in the league.  They also need  to see if he has a future with this club or if they should part ways.

From 2013-2016 with the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson was at the top of the MLB in almost every offensive category. He was in the top 10 for WAR across the MLB. He was in the prime of his career when he got injured and it is one of the worst things to happen, not only for the Jays, but for the MLB.  Josh Donaldson is an incredible impact player offensively and defensively and is a joy to watch for any baseball fan.   He always has an edge when he plays and even with the crazy haircuts he rocks, he always had style on the field. He was one of the sole reasons that the Blue Jays returned to the postseason in 2015 for the first time since 1993, breaking a 22 year absence.

If you missed it, Josh recently posted a video on his Instagram showing him running the bases in Florida where he has been rehabbing his injury; with the caption “Getting closer!!” which makes us think he is close to being back in a Blue Jays uniform. He also posted another photo of himself with the caption “You hate, I smile knowing that work being put in is going to bring out the best in me.” Which begs the question to be asked, is the hate he’s talking about from fans or from the organization?  This could open a huge can of worms if it is from inside the club. However, at the end of the day, do the Blue Jays want or need him back in a Toronto jersey?  Or is it better to part ways and trade him before the waiver trade deadline on August 31st?

Let’s not forget that Josh Donaldson has been dealing with this calf injury since Spring training in March and that it’s never fully healed or was not dealt with properly as he had the same injury come back on May 28th and he has not played since.  So is this injury actually finally healed or will we see a repeat if Josh does make a return somehow to the lineup this season? He also had the shoulder injury he was dealing with at the start of the season that landed him on the 10 day DL in April and I was at the “dead arm” game which was the Jays home opener.   It was no secret he was struggling to throw the ball from third.  One would tend to wonder if this is still an issue as well or if he has completely healed from it.  He was barely in the lineup for three weeks after coming back from the DL stint for the shoulder issue before landing back on the DL and not appearing since.  It would have anyone wondering if maybe his body is not up to the demand of a long baseball season along with postseason baseball and something like that could greatly affect the trade value of any player.

If the Blue Jays choose to trade Josh Donaldson does he still have value or has it dropped so low that it is almost a waste to even bother? If Josh is able to bring in assets of any kind you make that trade, and not only do you move the contract, but you open a spot at 3rd base. It’s no secret that the MLB’s current number one prospect, Guerrero Jr, is a 3rd basemen and is currently playing in Buffalo. I’m no expert, but he is pretty good the way he is tearing up every level he has played in and it shouldn’t be long until he is brought up to the MLB. Does this automatically make Donaldson expendable?  No.  However, it does give you options and time to make that choice. The Blue Jays, will not be in the playoffs for the second season in a row so there is no need to rush Donaldson back or put that kind of pressure on the young Guerrero Jr.

As much as Josh Donaldson means to Toronto from the 2015 and 2016 seasons, I believe that it is time to move on from him.  Most of the core players that the Jays had, have already moved. There is a point where Ross Atkins needs to make the choice, has Josh Donaldson past his prime or not?  They need to avoid having a repeat of what happened with Jose Bautista.  Using loyalty over common sense ended up hurting the organization more than benefiting them, aside from giving the fans what they wanted which was to continue to see one of their favorite players in a Blue Jays uniform. We have already seen the likes of Bautista, Encarnacion, Osuna, and Happ all move on from the team be that from trades or free agency. There is only 11 players even left over from the 40 man roster of 2015, so this roster has had a significant turn over as the core is completely different and the rebuild is all but on.

The more Josh rehabs and the closer we get to his return, the more information will come to light as to what the Blue Jays have in mind on what to do with the former MVP. There has been news that the Blue Jays plan on putting Donaldson on revocable waivers when he is taken off the DL. This gives teams the opportunity to claim the third baseman, however, based on the current $5 million still on his deal, Donaldson will likely clear and then the Blue Jays have the opportunity to trade him before the deadline. Being less than two weeks away from the deadline, it all depends on if Josh gets any sort of playing time. As good as Donaldson was, even a contending team would be risking more than they would be comfortable with if that team acquires him without any sort of sense that he is remotely healthy. The Jays can still keep him in the organization if they choose to put a qualifying offer on the table, which is a 1 year $18 million dollar deal, however there are rumors out there that the Jays will not even make the offer.  I still think it would be a mistake to let him walk for nothing.

They really should try and move him this season and if not, I don’t think a one year qualifying offer would hurt if they decide that Guerrero Jr is not yet ready for everyday MLB baseball come 2019.

He could be a good mentor and then they can still trade him at the 2019 trade deadline.

At some point the Jays need to end this relationship.

At this point Donaldson’s value is at the lowest it has ever been but that does not mean the Blue Jays can’t get something for him.  Allowing him to walk to free agency, if he does return to form, would be a grave mistake.

There is an issue, however, with how much information is starting to leak outside the organization and the standpoint of many people on the topic of Donaldson’s future with the team. I completely agree, it needs a hard look, but I still believe, at times, Josh does get significantly disrespected based on what he has done for this team in the past.  No, I am not a fan of celebrating playoff appearances over championships, however, he won an MVP in Toronto.  That is not as easy thing to do in this city when most people outside of Canada don’t even remember Canada has a team. It was the first time since 1987 that a Toronto Blue Jay took the award when George Bell won the honor.

Donaldson was one of the reasons the Blue Jays were back on the map in a sport that is completely an American league with the exception of the one team in the Great White North. Josh Donaldson is currently sitting 14th all-time for the Blue Jays in home runs and based on his history, without the injury, he would have already been in the top 10. That is nothing to laugh at when it comes to his personal accomplishments for this team. The Blue Jays need to take better control of this situation and handle it in more of a respectable manner.  ‍

Josh Donaldson is the least of the Jays problems when looking to the future. As it stands right now, the Jays only have 3 players that are currently guaranteed contracts for next season; Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, and Kendrys Morales. Tulowitzki has not played at all this season and likely will not. Who knows if we ever see him play another MLB game. Russell Martin is past his prime and has fallen in the depth chart to Luke Maile.

Morales was supposed to replace Encarnacion’s bat. That has not happened. The Blue Jays are in trouble to even put a roster together for next season and if they truly decide on a rebuild, signing free agents for more than 1-2 years, for big time money, is a complete mistake.  That is why Donaldson bringing in more assets would be the best case scenario.

I think it is time to give the team over to the young kids. If you are going to rebuild it is time to do it properly. The Blue Jays had their best chance at a world series in 2015 and baseball is one of the hardest sports to continuously stay relevant in your division.

Even with a half decent team, the Blue Jays had no chance this year to compete. With a pool full of prospects, the future looks great for the Jays if they choose to move past the days of Josh Donaldson. With the number one MLB prospect in Guerrero Jr at 3B, Bo Bichette at SS, Danny Janson at C, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. at 2B the Blue Jays are primed and ready to have one of the best young, high offence infields in the majors and once they fill out pitching and have a decent outfield this team is already on track to a very quick rebuild. Look at teams like the Astros, Yankees, and even the Braves, a few young superstars and you’re back in a playoff race. The game of baseball has changed and it does not take as long to rebuild and become a relevant franchise again in the MLB.

Regardless of how this season ends, the future is bright for the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays just need to look down the road to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who stripped it down, got rid of awful contracts, and gave the team to the kids to control.

I believe this team will be able to do that as well, if they play their cards right and make the right moves at the right time.

If, for whatever reason, we have seen the last of Josh Donaldson in a Blue Jays uniform, then I think all of Toronto owes him a huge thank you.

Without Josh, Toronto would not have made the playoffs in 2015 or 2016 and would never have set the stage for the famous Bautista bat-flip moment we see over and over in our minds and on our televisions.

Considering he has only been here for four seasons, aside from this season, the past three were incredible and, even with the injury issues, he will still go down as one of the best Blue Jays in franchise history. There is part of me, however, that hopes we see him again in a Blue Jays uniform so he can get a proper send off. At this point, it is more than likely that the days of Donaldson in Toronto are over but there is still a lot that can happen between now, the waiver trade deadline, and next season.

I am hoping the Jays handle the situation correctly and allow both parties to grow and improve, whether apart or together.

Please follow Matteo on Twitter at: @TeoPasculli92 

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