The Donaldson dilemma a pain for Blue Jays
How soon they forget the months that Josh kept the ship afloat
TORONTO — The relationship between Josh Donaldson and the Toronto Blue Jays gets stranger and stranger by the hour.
The final minutes prior to the Sept. 1 cutoff for players being eligible for the post-season is unfolding like the Apollo 13 of trade deadline crises with the Jays hurtling toward midnight desperately trying to unbuckle the safety harness and push the ejecto-button to jettison the unwanted superstar.
We even heard one of the Sportsnet TV folks on Wednesday night suggest that if Donaldson cannot be traded and stays the rest of the year and if the Jays make a qualifying offer — around $18 million — and if he accepts that one-year deal “it could get in the way of “what the team is trying to accomplish.” Huh??
It is sad for fans if that is the official view of ownership regarding a player who was Major League Baseball’s American League MVP a mere three years ago and when healthy helps win games.
Does it mean the team’s goal in 2019 is not to win games?
The Jays seem very obviously upset at the way Donaldson seems to have slow-played his rehab from calf injuries.
But you have to trust the athlete.
It is down to the 11th hour and a precarious position because any player on the DL is unable to be included on the trade-waiver list until he has begun a rehab assignment and proves he is back to being major-league healthy.
The MLB waiver period lasts for two days and the expiry time is 1 p.m. EDT, which means the earliest Donaldson can clear waivers and be traded is Friday afternoon leaving 10 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds to negotiate a deal and have the new club give him a physical.
Donaldson played five innings in Tuesday’s game, with Wednesday’s game in Dunedin being rained out.
Even before that postponement, Bringer of Rain was rumoured to be unavailable because of soreness, bringing into play the judgment of majorleague baseball and whether five innings in a game followed by soreness and rain is good enough for Donaldson to even be on waivers.
If MLB rules no, that he is still injured then he cannot play for anyone except the Jays in the post-season. Not!
That doesn’t mean the Jays can’t trade him to someone who just wants to win in September and feels J.D. can be the difference, but the most in return that could then be expected would be for the Jays to pay the remainder of the salary, about $3.7 million, and receive the equivalent of a 90-100 pick in the June 2019 draft, which would be the range of the compensatory pick should Toronto make a qualifying offer.
No wonder GM Ross Atkins and president Mark Shapiro are upset. But to say that it gets in the way of ’19 plans if Donaldson happened to accept the $18 million is ludicrous.
A healthy Donaldson would only help the bottom line of winning and surely there is room for both him and Vlad Guerrero Jr.
But for those that are quick to forget, the Josh Donaldson legacy should forever centre on the impact he had in 2015, not just in the run to the division title snapping a 22-year playoff drought for the franchise, but how impactful he was in GM Alex Anthopoulos’s decision to roll the dice at a time they were one game under .500 and even Rogers ownership had to be convinced.
Often overlooked or forgotten in the mental replay of ’15 is that the primary reason cited by Anthopoulos as to why he believed this team that had been playing hopscotch with .500 the entire first half through the all-star break was better than the public perception was the plus-minus run differential that was hugely influenced in the first 93 games by the Bringer of Rain.
On July 18, 2015, just about the time the Jays were quietly deciding on a trade deadline aggressiveness, the team was 46-47, but had outscored its opponents 494-409, by 85 runs.
Anthopoulos understood that they needed an ace for the rotation (David Price), an upgrade over Jose Reyes at shortstop (Troy Tulowitzki), a little speed at the top of the order (Ben Revere) and to shore up the middle relief in the bullpen (LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe).
None of that happens without Donaldson keeping the ship afloat through the first half.
It seemed while the Jays were struggling into July that every actual win involved a huge hit by Donaldson.
From Opening Day through July 18, he hammered 22 home runs, with 12 of those giving the Jays the lead and five others that tied the score.
He hit four in the first inning and had walkoff blasts on April 18 vs. the Braves and May 26 against the White Sox.
Donaldson kept up his torrid pace even after the cavalry arrived to lead the second half charge.
In the Jays 92 wins in ’15, Donaldson hit .377 with a
1.167 OPS, driving in 94 and scoring 97 with 34 doubles, a triple and 31 homers.
In his three Jays seasons prior to 2018, Donaldson finished first, fourth and 22nd in MVP voting.
But in the case of Donaldson vs. the fans and Rogers ownership, it has become a case of “What have you done for me lately?”
It’s a shame Donaldson’s legacy will end up being one of an injury-riddled reluctant star around whom management made an honest mistake thinking they could compete in 2018, but turned into a major miscalculation, ushering in a painful rebuild.
Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays tosses his bat after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning against the Indians in the second game of a doubleheader at Progressive Field in Cleveland on May 3.