Entering the offseason knowing Josh Donaldson had just one year left of contract control, many feared he would be traded despite assurances from the front office that they’d retain him. It would appear that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro kept their word after all.
Perhaps the biggest question for the Blue Jays as they entered this offseason was what to do with their best player, Josh Donaldson. The “Bringer of Rain” has just one year left on his contract before he’ll be a free agent, and was set to enter arbitration one last time before then. We already know the player and club worked things out to the tune of a one year, 23 million dollar agreement, but the future remains up in the air.
For that reason, many Blue Jays fans and writers (myself included) were skeptical that the club would choose to retain the 2015 AL MVP, especially knowing that so many suitors would be interested if he were made available on the trade market. We were bombarded by rumours of interest from the St. Louis Cardinals on a near weekly basis, and despite the fact that two trades were completed between the clubs, Donaldson remains a Blue Jay.
It’s as Ross Atkins said it would be all along, and yet I didn’t really believe him until now. The truth is, this is very much a team that’s in limbo and depending on the direction the front office wanted to go, a player like Donaldson may or may not make sense for the long term. We’ve talked about it at ridiculous lengths this offseason.
There are a lot of variables to the larger equation, but the signs of “going for it” haven’t been there from the front office, so why should we believe them when they’ve said they want to compete in 2018?
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The number one reason would be that they retained their best player, and someone that they could lose at season’s end for nothing more than a draft pick. They’re paying him more money than any Blue Jay has ever received in franchise history, at least for a single season, in what I view as at least a sign of good faith going forward. The argument to trade him now was as strong as it’s going to be, unless of course you intend to compete yourself. Atkins has mentioned many times that you can’t get better very easily by trading your best player, and it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays finding a trade involving the third baseman that would have improved their chances in 2018.
"“We do have that number. We have come up with a clear walkaway that we would be willing to commit to him to extend for him to remain a Blue Jay probably for the rest of his career.” – Ross Atkins"
At a Pitch Talks event on Thursday night in Toronto, Ross Atkins mentioned that the front office has come up with an internal idea, “for him to remain a Blue Jay probably for the rest of his career”, which means they’re serious about the idea of not just trying to win this year, but building him into the short, and longer term plans for the future.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure I bought that they’d keep him around for 2018 even after they said they would, so maybe I’ll hold back on the assumption this will be his final season in a Blue Jay uniform.