The Blue Jays traded Josh Donaldson to the Cleveland Indians on Friday night, ending one of the most successful tenures in the uniform in franchise history. Unfortunately things didn’t end on the note that all parties hoped they would.
There are still a few pieces left of the 2015-16 playoff teams from the Toronto Blue Jays, but Josh Donaldson‘s trade on Friday night felt like the final chapter of that era of the team.
Long gone are Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and Donaldson’s departure feels like the last of that celebrated group. We knew it was coming at some point this year, but it’s been truly disappointing to see not only that things ended on such a negative note in the standings, but it also sounds like things weren’t much better on the relationship side of things.
The Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley had several different quotes from Donaldson that were released throughout Friday, and they didn’t exactly paint a picture of an ideal relationship between the player and his now former employer. We’re bound to learn a lot more details in the coming days, especially now that Donaldson doesn’t have to worry about upsetting the folks who sign his cheques with his words, and there’s a good chance that it won’t reflect well on the Blue Jays regardless of how much they’re actually at fault.
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It seems that Donaldson’s primary issue is the way his rehab was handled. We’ve known for awhile that he and his “people” decided to do some work on their own this offseason, and clearly that didn’t go any better for the former 2015 AL MVP. Still, based on the comments he made that were reported by Longley, it sounds like he’s willing to chuck some of the blame around at the very least.
It’s not a great look for the Blue Jays for a number of reasons. They don’t want their franchise icons leaving on bad terms, regardless of the circumstances, but it also makes for a more difficult future when it comes to player relations. The Blue Jays may not be big players in the free agent market next year, but this type of thing is definitely considered when players are choosing their next team in free agency, and reputations get tarnished pretty quickly. We’ll see what Donaldson has to say down the line, and how bad the picture he paints really looks.
It’s also a shame for other reasons as well, mainly the return the Blue Jays received from Cleveland, or lack thereof. Hindsight always proves to be 20/20, but the Blue Jays likely could have had a king’s ransom in exchange for their former AL MVP if they had traded him a year ago, or even this past winter. Now the return is nothing more than a PBTNL (player to be named later), and my guess is the value of the return will hinge on how much Donaldson actually plays.
Donaldson’s inevitable departure was supposed to be different than Jose Bautista’s. The latter was 36 in his final season in Toronto, and looked like ‘Father Time’ may have caught up with him at the end of his contract. No one could blame the Blue Jays for going in another direction, and even more for not wanting to pay big money for their aging star. In Donaldson’s case, he won’t be 33 until the offseason, and should have been still performing at or near his prime this year. There’s a good chance he’s got some very productive years left before he’s done, and the Blue Jays lack of interest in retaining him was more about where they’re at as a franchise than his own abilities.
That said, this season has been a terrible one for Donaldson personally, and he’ll have his work cut out for him in Cleveland in order to re-establish some of his lost value. If he can stay healthy and end up as a premiere performer over the final month and into the playoffs, perhaps he’ll get a multi-year deal this winter after all, but right now that seems like a long shot.
It really just straight up sucks that he’ll depart from Toronto with things ending on a sour note in terms of his performance, the return the Blue Jays will get, and most importantly with his feelings toward the organization. That happens sometimes when a divorce takes place, but this was a chance for the Blue Jays to send him to a contender and wish him well, and instead it looks like he couldn’t get out of town fast enough, and the Blue Jays were hurrying him out the door.
It’s a situation that will be worth monitoring in the coming days and weeks, especially if Donaldson or the Blue Jays front office decide to let the public in on more of what happened. Whatever it was that went down, it’s a shame it had to end this way.