With Josh Donaldson still not back to playing baseball, the Blue Jays are running out of time for him to prove his value, and his worth on the trade market.
The Blue Jays have been playing some better baseball lately, as they’ve won their last three straight by taking two from the Angels, and winning the series opener with the Astros on Monday night.
However great as it is to see the team playing some inspired baseball and climbing their way back closer to the .500 mark, that likely isn’t going to change their fate before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. The Blue Jays are poised to be sellers, and they have plenty of veterans on expiring contracts, with J.A. Happ likely garnering as much interest as anyone, and picking up the win against the Astros against Justin Verlander on Monday. That certainly doesn’t hurt his trade value.
On the other hand, another veteran Blue Jay that might come in high demand on the trade market would be Josh Donaldson, who is set to hit unrestricted free agency this winter. As the 2015 AL MVP and being the top player in Toronto for a few years now, his value has always been evident to the Blue Jays and their fan base. However, if you are a casual fan and you’re looking at just the numbers from this year, you likely wouldn’t feel the same way.
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As you’re more than likely aware, Donaldson hasn’t been able to stay on the field this year, and even when he has been present he’s been nowhere near the best version of himself. In just 36 games played out of the team’s 78, Donaldson has slashed a disappointing .234/.333/.423 with just five home runs and 16 RBI. His shoulder issues have taken away his ability to be a defensive asset this season thus far, and he’s obviously not hitting like he has in the past.
At just 32 years old, it’s hard to imagine that Donaldson is done being an above-average third baseman in the big leagues. None of his injury issues this year has been major, but they’ve been nagging enough to keep him out of the lineup. Obviously that’s enough to cause a problem or two, but it’s not enough that it should have a major impact on his long term future.
That is, except for when it comes to his value in free agency this upcoming offseason, and unfortunately for the Blue Jays, it’ll also affect his trade value in the weeks leading up to the July 31st non-waiver deadline.
As recently as during the second half of the 2017 season, Donaldson was considered to be among the top 5-10 hitters in the American League, and the most potent bat in the Blue Jays lineup. Rival GM’s won’t completely forget what he can do by any means, but at this point you can’t blame them if they have pause about spending big on the eight year veteran. A year ago this time the Blue Jays likely could have fetched a king’s ransom for Donaldson. Now, it’s really hard to say.
The Blue Jays thought he was going to be able to return to action last week, and he even re-joined the team. However, he still hasn’t been able to get back in the lineup, and it’s hard to say exactly when that will happen. One would think that it should be soon, but I would have said that a week ago too, and here we are.
A couple days ago we heard reports from Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com that he’s going to miss at least another week, which basically takes us to the beginning of July. Assuming he can get back on the field by then, he’ll have one month to show rival GMs what he’s still worth in a deadline deal trade. The Florida native should be very motivated, as his performance in the second half of this season will very much affect how much he gets in free agency as well.
The Blue Jays, and especially Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, will be hoping he comes back with a vengeance. As I said earlier, there’s little doubt that he can still perform as a valuable asset to any team, but he’s gotta stay healthy first. I’m not sure we’ve seen a healthy Donaldson at any point this season.
Hopefully that will change before the trade deadline is up, otherwise the Blue Jays will likely miss out on cashing in on what should have been their most valuable chip. I personally don’t blame them for entering the season with hopes of competing, but unfortunately in the case of Donaldson, trading him a year ago, or even six months ago, likely would have been the better bet.