Blue Jays: Don’t activate Josh Donaldson until he’s fully healthy

The Blue Jays placed Josh Donaldson back on the 10 day DL on Friday. This time, the club needs to wait until he’s 100% healthy before bringing him back.

There have been a lot of surprises with the Toronto Blue Jays this season, and we’re only two months into the calendar. To me, arguably the biggest surprise has been the lacklustre play from Josh Donaldson this season, when he’s been healthy enough to play at least.

Donaldson was placed back on the 10 day disabled list on Friday, a decision that surprised some Blue Jays’ fans, especially because both the player, and John Gibbons made it sound like his time on the sidelines would be minimal. There were even reports that he could be in the lineup against the Tigers for their series opener, but after testing things out on the field prior to the game the decision was made to not only keep him out, but to place him on the disabled list.

Without knowing the full details of Donaldson’s “calf tightness”, I’m not necessarily that upset to see him on the disabled list at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I 100% believe he’s still the Blue Jays’ best player, and I can’t think of a time they could use their top hitter more than right now. They’ve lost their last four in a row, and dropped the first game of June after finishing 9-19 in the month of May. It’s been a rough stretch, and it’s time like this that you need to lean on your best players to pull you out of a rut.

Only in Donaldson’s case, he’s been nowhere close to the hitter that he can be, and I believe that’s a direct reflection of an ailing body for the 2015 AL MVP. Through 137 at bats and just 36 games played, “The Bringer of Rain” is slashing .234/.333/.423 with five home runs, 16 RBI, and 11 doubles, far from his usual pace. He’s got a career .275/.366/.507 slash line and has averaged 35 home runs per year over his last four seasons. It’s safe to say we haven’t seen the same hitter in 2018.

At the moment the issue is the calf tightness, but I’m not convinced that he was ever at or even close to 100% with the shoulder issue that caused him problems earlier in the season. Of his 36 games played this year, he has been slotted in at designated hitter 10 times already. Part of the reason for that has been the rough season from Kendrys Morales, but it’s also largely due to the fact that Donaldson’s shoulder wasn’t strong enough to throw to first base. While we were told that the “dead arm” issues wouldn’t affect his hitting, the 32 year old’s numbers would suggest otherwise.

Maybe that issue is mostly or completely cleared up and now it’s all about the calf tightness, but I’m hopeful that this time off will bring back the Josh Donaldson that Blue Jays fans have enjoyed watching over the last three seasons. If he can heat up at the plate it will go a long way to getting the struggling team back in the win column, and give them any chance of competing for a playoff spot this season. On the other hand, even if the team can’t turn things around and get back in the hunt, Donaldson’s expiring contract could provide a pretty solid return for the Blue Jays in a trade as well, assuming he’s performing well enough, and is healthy by then.

From the sound of things, Donaldson will likely return sooner than later, as the Blue Jays backdated his DL date, adding him on May 29th when he was initially held out. The move gives them the option to bring him back earlier this way, assuming he’s ready to go in a week. However, if he’s not 100% healthy I would argue that both the player and the organization would benefit the most by exercising patience. That’s not easy to do when the season feels like it’s slipping away, but having Donaldson at the top of his game is the best for everyone involved, from every angle.

Hopefully a week to rest will give him the re-set he needs and get him back to being the offensive force he’s been for the last half decade. The Blue Jays badly need an offensive spark, and there’s no one more capable than a healthy Josh Donaldson. If it takes a few extra days to get him back to being that guy, so be it.

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