Blue Jays: Trade interest may push Donaldson away from extension talks

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 29: Josh Donaldson
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 29: Josh Donaldson /

After seeing how many teams are interested in his services as a trade candidate, will that push Josh Donaldson away from extension talks with the Blue Jays?

In a relatively quiet offseason for the Blue Jays so far, there has been a great deal of focus on Josh Donaldson. There have been repeated calls and speculation about whether the Blue Jays will offer him a contract extension, and persistent rumours that he’s coming up in trade discussions, or at least in phone calls made by several GM’s across the league.

The most consistent rumour has been the interest of the St. Louis Cardinals in trading for Donaldson, and it just seems like the Cards aren’t willing to take no for an answer. For now, the Blue Jays’ front office continues to hold their ground on being contenders themselves, which means they want to keep the 2015 AL MVP on their roster. GM Ross Atkins rightly noted that, “If we’re thinking about making this organization better every day, it’s really hard to imagine making it better without Josh,” when asked about trading his star player last week, and so far we have no reason not to believe him.

That said, I wonder if this whole situation hasn’t changed the perspective for Donaldson and his agent. As the 32 year old enters his final season of his current contract, he’ll be looking to prove that he’s still the player that won the MVP in 2015, and also dominated the American League in the second half of last season. He battled injuries last season, but he left little doubt about his current abilities when he was healthy, finishing the season with 33 home runs. 78 RBI. and 4.8 bWAR earned in just 113 games played.

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That performance helped to cement his status as a premier free agent of the 2018 class, assuming he doesn’t sign another contract before then. The dominant display in the second half is likely what has enticed potential trade suitors as well, and it’s given the 3rd baseman and his agent an opportunity to get a preview of what his market could look like a year from now. There are a lot of variables at play of course, but it has to be encouraging that at least five teams have called asking whether the Blue Jays would consider a trade. And for Donaldson, even if he doesn’t want to be traded it has to feel good to be wanted.

At the same time, we’ve watched the way GM’s value players evolve over the last few years, and that doesn’t look to be changing this offseason. There was a time when a player like Donaldson would be guaranteed to get top dollar on the open market. However, as a 33 year old with a bit of an injury history, there will be plenty of teams feeling a little gun shy about pursuing him, especially if he’s earning the 25-30 million AAV that he’s expectedly to pull in, and likely on no less than a five or six year deal.

It’ll be a lot of weighing pros and cons for Donaldson as he considers his future, and what’s best for him and his family. Whether he ultimately decides to sign an extension and forego free agency (assuming he’s offered a contract by the Blue Jays), or wants to test the market, he’s gathering some valuable intel lately as his name repeatedly pops up in trade rumours.

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Whether or not that is directly affecting the decisions in front of him, we may never know. It can’t hurt his ego to know for surethat he’s wanted though, and hopefully that won’t have a negative chance on the Blue Jays’ keeping him around for the long term.