Blue Jays: Don’t worry about Josh Donaldson and the Qualifying Offer
After looking like he might be a major free agent this winter, we’re now at a point where the Blue Jays may be “worried” Josh Donaldson could accept a qualifying offer. That’s a foolish thing to be concerned about, if you ask me.
There were several outlets talking on Thursday about Josh Donaldson‘s future with the Blue Jays, and his impending free agency. The fact that he remains on the sidelines has diminished his value to a low we never thought we’d see by 2018, but the Blue Jays haven’t exactly had great luck with their best players this season.
We heard noted writer Shi Davidhi talking about the situation on the “Good Show”, even suggesting the Blue Jays could be gun shy about giving Donaldson a Qualifying Offer this winter. The topic, and Davidhi’s comments, were also covered over at bluejaysnation.com yesterday, among other places.
For those that don’t know what the qualifying offer is, the Blue Jays could offer him a one year deal worth in the neighbourhood of 18-19 million dollars next year, and if he turns it down they would receive a compensatory first round pick for his departure. The figure is based off of the average of the top 125 players in baseball, and is nothing to sneeze at. However, for someone with Donaldson’s talent it is supposed to be an easy thing to turn down, but that might have changed.
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A year or two ago, it was laughable to think that this was all Donaldson could get on the open market, but he could be a bit of a forgotten man this winter if he doesn’t return to the field soon . It’s not to suggest that he won’t draw interest, but there was a time when the 150-200 million dollar range was being discussed as a future target for the former AL MVP, and now we’re talking about a one year deal worth roughly 18 million, and whether or not the Blue Jays would want him to accept it.
As for the notion of “worrying” about whether he accepts it or not, I think that’s ridiculous. In a worst case scenario, you have a potential MVP level player returning on a discount with a great deal to prove. Sure, he had a similar scenario this year, but Donaldson will really have to show GM’s that he’s got gas left in the tank, and more importantly that he can stay healthy. The QO isn’t chump change, but it would be a significant discount from what he was paid this year, and it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t provide a better return.
There is also the whole “keeping third base open” thing, with the impending promotion of franchise wonder-kid, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It’s hard to imagine that he won’t be the big leagues for most of 2019, even if the Blue Jays elect to start his season in Triple-A in order to manipulate his service time into another year in blue and white. There’s also the presence of Russell Martin, who will probably see a fair amount of time at third next year with Danny Jansen needing starts at catcher, and also Brandon Drury and Yangervis Solarte. It’s possible one or more or these players get moved this winter, or even this month, but you can see why there may not be a lot of room to bring Donaldson back in 2019.
However, even if the “Bringer of Rain” chooses to accept a qualifying offer, the Blue Jays will have the budget room to afford him, and could always use him more at DH and/or first base. Justin Smoak‘s contract option is a lock for the Blue Jays to pick up, but they could always trade him this winter. At DH, I wouldn’t be shocked if the front office decided to eat Kendrys Morales’ final year of his contract and open up more at bats for younger, developing players. Or again, any of the above mentioned names (with the exception of Guerrero) could be offered in a trade, depending on how Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins want to build this team in the near term.
The point is, they can find the roster and budget room for Donaldson if he lands in their laps on a one year deal for next season, and at this stage that might be the best for the long term good of the franchise. It’s a gamble for sure, but as things stand now the Jays are set to lose him without getting anything in return in the trade market, in a year when he could have been the hottest commodity if things had gone differently. He would be an obvious candidate to be flipped before the 2019 trade deadline, and the Blue Jays would hope that he can re-capture his form and bring a decent return. Not making the offer guarantees you lose him for nothing, and I’m not sure that makes any sense given the current state of the club.
The ideal ways for Donaldson’s tenure with the Blue Jays to end have already passed us by, so now it’s about salvaging the situation as best as possible. That might come in the form of compensation pick if he rejects the qualifying offer, or it might mean waiting until next summer to get the return. When the only cost is money, the Blue Jays can’t worry about something like this. They’re already losing J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Curtis Granderson, and others from the budget they started the season with, and I don’t expect Atkins to be heavily involved in the free agent market either.
Maybe Donaldson makes a return this month and the Blue Jays pull some late-August magic on the market, but the closer we get to the end of the month the more unlikely that is. It’s looking more likely that this saga will continue into this offseason, and if that means Josh Donaldson is still a Blue Jay on Opening Day next year, then so be it. Worst things could happen, and worrying about it is a waste of time.