Josh Donaldson: Blue Jays Extension Candidate?
It’s coming up to arbitration time. Teams and players have until tomorrow to come to an agreement. If not, they’ll have a hearing scheduled for February. If that is the case, they may still work out a multiyear deal. We’ve seen Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos do this with Casey Janssen a while back. We’ve also seen him buy out an arbitration year in favor of a multiyear deal as in the case of Jose Bautista.
Here at Jays Journal, we’ve looked at that possibility for (potential closer) Brett Cecil and newly acquired Michael Saunders. While working out a long term pact may be a good idea for Cecil, it would probably behoove the Blue Jays to wait on Saunders.
Next: Does Alex Anthopoulos Have the Set of Beanes to Improve Blue Jays?
But, another candidate for a long term deal could be the other new guy, Josh Donaldson. He is 1st year eligible for arbitration as a “Super 2″ player. According to MLBTR.com, he is projected to earn a huge increase on his 2014 salary; from $500K to $4.5M! Given this rate of inflation, would it be a smart move for the Blue Jays to buy out the remaining arbitration years and shoot for a major long term deal?
Let’s be honest, the arbitration process (Baseball Prospectus explains it well HERE) is a bit of a gamble. What we do know, though is that the process rewards guys for having big years. In 2013, he was worth 7.7 WAR and in 2014, 6.4. Arbitration may not consider statistically sound analysis, but it does take into account the old school power and production (in the case of hitters). This is where arbitration is going to be very very good to the Bringer of Rain. Take a look:
The Blue Jays have Donaldson for another 4 years. Let’s say he continues to reproduce his numbers as Steamer suggests he will. He’s tapped for a 2015 season that includes 27 HR, 99 RBI, 30 2B and a line of .264/.342/.470. While the Blue Jays would be thrilled with those numbers, it also means that his $4.5M salary is going to see an increase in 2016 and so on. It is quite conceivable that he could end up costing quite a bit. And, while those numbers are a bargain at $4.5M, they look less so as the payout increases.
Here’s the thing, though. Josh Donaldson is 29. His first full season was at 27. He is what some would call a “late bloomer” even if his “blooming” was more like an explosion. There is no reason to think that he won’t continue to his production, but it is not like we’re talking about looking into the future of a 22 year old. If someone THAT age puts up these numbers, you lock them up for eons (right, Mike Trout?).
But, the status of Josh Donaldson is different. He is older. He is in his prime NOW. He is not pre-prime. Some may even suggest that, at his age, we may see some stalling in his progress or, dare I say it, regression. The Blue Jays have control over him for the next 4 years. Let’s say that he stays the same over the next 4 years. He’ll be entering free agency as a 33 year old. He would have put up 6 great seasons, no doubt. He’ll be entering the free agent frenzy on the wrong side of 30.
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Of course, that is only if his numbers stay the same throughout his prime. There may also be the risk of his production diminishing 4 seasons from now. He’ll be playing 81 games per year on the much maligned turf of Rogers Centre. That has got to have an impact on his aging body. If that is the case, do the Blue Jays really want to be in the position of paying for a guy whose best days are behind him all because they wanted to save some money in arbitration years?
No, what we know is that the Blue Jays will spend as little as possible for as long as they can. While it may seem like a good idea to lock up a guy with this kind of production, it is probably not such a good idea to start that process when he’s 27. There really isn’t much precedence for guys who broke out like this at this age. Due to this unknown, the Blue Jays are more likely to wait and see how Donaldson fairs in the next few seasons.
If his production continues, look for this conversation to be had when he is 32. But, not right now. There is no need to rush into that. The Blue Jays can just sit back and enjoy the Rain that Josh Donaldson brings for the next 4 years.