We don’t know for certain if Josh Donaldson will stay in Toronto beyond the 2018 season, so the Blue Jays should promote Vladimir Guerrero Jr while he’s still here.
While the Blue Jays continue to struggle, dropping their fifth straight on Saturday, the debate about promoting Vladimir Guerrero Jr continues, as it likely will until his inevitable promotion someday.
Some fans and even baseball writers are surprised that he remains in Double-A, especially as the Blue Jays are in desperate need of an offensive spark, and their star third baseman Josh Donaldson is back on the disabled list. The young phenom is slashing .417/.465/.701 with 11 home runs, 18 doubles, and 53 RBI in just 48 games played, and is making the Eastern League look like child’s play. He unfortunately had to leave Saturday’s game after stepping awkwardly on a base, but it sounds like the injury isn’t anything major.
There are well documented reasons for his remaining at the level, mostly surrounding his defence and the desire to give him a full-time playing spot, wherever he’s playing. Before Donaldson’s injury he was blocked at the highest level, and it’s hard to say if he’s defensively ready to take on big leaguers just yet. That question and Donaldson’s presence lead many to suggest he should DH, but that wouldn’t help his defensive development, and Kendrys Morales has finally started heating up at the plate.
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I waver back and worth on the topic on a near daily basis, and I definitely understand both sides of the argument. With a player that is this special, you want to make sure you nurture every nuance of his game and make sure he becomes all that he can, and it looks like the sky is the limit there. There have been plenty of prospects who were arguably rushed too early in their careers, and the last thing the Blue Jays want to do is second guess things in that way later on.
However, I would argue that Vlad Jr. is leaving them little choice but to give him a chance at some point in 2018. I’m not sure when the right time is for that promotion, and I’m okay with it not being this week, even if the big league club could use his potential offensive boost. That said, I think the Blue Jays have to promote him at some point, and that time might be coming sooner than later in my view.
Ultimately I’d like to see the young third baseman play with Josh Donaldson for awhile. Obviously they can’t both play the hot corner at the same time, but they could share the position while the other DH’s, a situation which would allow Donaldson to get a little more rest as the season wears on. Morales is hitting well right now, but for the sake of the long term development of this team, I’m more than okay with sacrificing some of his at bats, especially for a potential generational hitter like Guerrero.
I don’t expect Donaldson to take the youngster under his wing and show him the ropes before he leaves his post as the Blue Jays star third baseman, that’s not what I’m talking about here. The reality is though, that the July 31st trade deadline is less than two months away, and there’s a good chance that Donaldson will be on the list of available trade targets. The Blue Jays have some time to turn themselves into a buyer before then, but right now they’ve dropped five in a row, and 21 of their last 30, and things aren’t looking good.
If these are the last couple of months for Donaldson in a Blue Jays uniform, the organization should try to soak whatever value they can from the 2015 MVP, even if he’s currently on the disabled list. Obviously they’ll have him in the lineup and working toward getting the team back in the playoff race, but if that can’t and doesn’t happen, then we have to know the front office will be shifting their focus beyond this season. Guerrero will be a huge part of that future, whether he’s a third baseman, first baseman, outfielder, or DH, and allowing him to be around Donaldson, even for a few weeks, will only benefit him in the long term.
Being around greatness can have a big impact on a young player, and even though Donaldson has had a very difficult season by his standards, he’s still one of the elite players in baseball when he’s completely healthy. He works hard on both sides of the ball, is passionate about winning, and has stuck up for his manager and his teammates throughout his time in Toronto. If this is his final season with the Blue Jays and he does pass the torch to Guerrero Jr., why not allow for some time for a direct influence? Guerrero is now past the point of losing a year of service time on his contract, so the Blue Jays don’t have to worry about that element in promoting him any longer either.
For the record, I’m actually a fan of the idea of re-signing Donaldson under the right circumstances as well, but if that doesn’t happen I’d like to see the two sluggers in the same lineup, even if it’s just for a few weeks, or ideally for a few months. I know it’s hard to imagine as the team has stumbled through the last several weeks, but wouldn’t it be fun to watch them as a dynamic duo in the Blue Jays’ lineup? I hope we see it at some point.