Blue Jays: Does the past affect Josh Donaldson’s walk year?
By David Lynch
The past few off-seasons have seen free-agent sluggers, and older players, struggle to find a landing place with a team. Will this affect third baseman Josh Donaldson, who is due to be a free agent this coming off-season?
We all know that Josh Donaldson is an exceptional talent. He fields with the best at the hot corner and rakes with the best power hitters in the league. But he’s also an older playing, at a demanding position, with a batting style that fades with age, unless you’re David Ortiz, of course.
Even one of the best Blue Jays power hitters ever, Jose Bautista, is in baseball limbo, with no team as the season draws closer. Granted, Donaldson has had better seasons recently than Bautista, but some teams may use Bautista as a cautionary story when evaluating Donaldson.
Last season saw over 100 20 homer players, which doesn’t bode well for Donaldson. With power being something seemingly everyone has now, getting elite power is no longer hard. This has led to elite power hitters like J.D. Martinez getting contracts less than their actual value because it’s no longer hard to find skill.
The one place Donaldson can plead his case is with his defence. Martinez is known as a lackluster defender, and most power hitters don’t add defence to their skill set.
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Donaldson is entering his age-33 season, so while he’s not ancient, he’s getting to the age where injuries can really hinder his production.
The fact that he’s coming off a season in which he was injured, and is currently battling an injury as spring training begins its end, doesn’t bode well for Donaldson.
This season, Donaldson is going to earn 23 million dollars. He’ll likely be looking for a raise, to around the 25-27 million per year range, by using his past few seasons as leverage.
One thing that will help Donaldson is Manny Machado switching positions. If Machado stayed put at third, Donaldson would’ve been the second-best third baseman on the market, but with Machado switching to his natural position of shortstop, Donaldson could enter free agency as the best third baseman available.
The fact is, Donaldson is an elite talent, and any team would be lucky to have him. But, he isn’t getting any younger, is currently battling the injury bug, and his position requires the player to be at the top of his game.
With all of these factors, we can expect Donaldson to get a deal a bit better than the one Edwin Encarnacion signed with Cleveland. That was a three year, 60 million dollar contract, making it 20 million per year when averaged out.
The reason Donaldson could get more than that is that of his defence. I know I’ve said he has the beginning signs of injury problems, and his position takes a lot out of the player, but he’s an elite defender. Last season, he had a .949 fielding percentage, and a 0.5 dWAR. The fielding percentage was his lowest in a season playing over 100 games at third, but he’s only a year removed from his best season of .961 percent.
I predict that a team will pay Donaldson a 3-4 year contract in the 80-100 million dollar range. I personally don’t think that would be a good contract to give him, but one team will get desperate enough to sign him and will pay up for him.
Next: Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson behind the eight-ball
So will the past offseasons affect Donaldson? Not as much as its affected other’s, and that’s because of his defence, and history as an elite middle of the order bat, former MVP who can lead the clubhouse. But he’ll have to act fast, because as we’ve seen, the more a player waits, the more teams figure out how to live without them.