Blue Jays: Donaldson’s contract about more than 2018

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 03: Josh Donaldson
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 03: Josh Donaldson /

The Blue Jays gave Josh Donaldson a record setting figure of 23 million in his final year of arbitration, and it may have been about more than the 2018 season.

Despite the fact that we’re still waiting for the Blue Jays to make another significant addition to their roster, it’s not hard to see the front office has been busy lately. They came to new agreements ahead of arbitration with several players including Aaron Sanchez, Devon Travis, Kevin Pillar, Dominic Leone, and of course, Josh Donaldson.

In the latter case, the one year, 23 million dollar contract was a record setting figure for a player who hasn’t reached free agency, breaking the former mark set by Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. There’s no doubt it was a high price to pay, but it was widely expected that Donaldson would surpass Harper’s 21.625 million mark with negotiations this offseason, and the number could potentially have gone higher had they go to arbitration.

It’s nice to have the Donaldson contract resolved, even if it’s only a short term fix. As we’re all more than aware, the “Bringer of Rain” is due to be a free agent at season’s end, which has sparked a debate among the fan base about whether the team should attempt to extend him, or sell their best player now before they lose him for nothing. I won’t get into that debate again right now, but I do believe that his 2018 salary may have had the future in mind as well.

More from Jays Journal

If the Blue Jays do intend on keeping Donaldson around for the long term, their relationship with the player will be very important, and squabbling over a million or two this offseason wouldn’t have helped that. We don’t know for sure what figures were presented by Donaldson and his agent, or the organization, but it’s definitely a good sign that they were able to come to an agreement without taking things any further. While going through arbitration can be just a part of the process, there is always the potential for some hard feelings, especially from the player side.

By avoiding that scenario, the Blue Jays may have taken a significant step toward the conversation around a longer term deal. Being given a record breaking contract has to be seen as a sign of respect from the 2015 AL MVP, even if it was expected that the record would be his. It also buys Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins a bit of time to assess where they see the Blue Jays in the immediate term, and if spending big on Donaldson is the best long term play.

Next: Beware of the message in the arbitration process

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the two sides will continue to talk about a long term extension this offseason, but either way the Blue Jays should feel confident that they’ve done well in setting themselves up for that if they choose. A contentious arbitration process, or even a lowball offer, could have had Donaldson leaning out the door, but instead now the door to a return theoretically should be wide open. Considering was paid just 4.3 million in 2015 after losing his first go around in arbitration with the Blue Jays, this has to be considered a positive step for their relationship with their star, and maybe even with potential free agents going forward.