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Blue Jays: The Josh Donaldson situation could have been different

Brendan Panikkar
TORONTO, ON - MAY 18: Justin Smoak #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson #20 and Luke Maile #21 (Back Left) and Kevin Pillar #11 (Back Right) look on with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning during MLB game action against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on May 18, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 18: Justin Smoak #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson #20 and Luke Maile #21 (Back Left) and Kevin Pillar #11 (Back Right) look on with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning during MLB game action against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on May 18, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Blue Jays former MVP Josh Donaldson signed with the Atlanta Braves today on a one year deal & I can’t help but reflect on how this could have been different.

There will certainly be some Josh Donaldson chatter amongst the Toronto Blue Jays fan base for the next few days as the former MVP signed a one year, $23 million contract with the Atlanta Braves. This re-unites Donaldson with former GM Alex Anthopolous.

For one, I’m happy for Donaldson and the fit with the Braves is quite apparent. However, the end of the Donaldson tenure in Toronto probably should have been handled quite differently.

There’s no denying Josh Donaldson was one of the most electrifying Blue Jays of all-time, and he provided this fanbase with tons of memories. However, he also dealt with injuries each of his last two seasons. 2018 was by far the worst season injury wise as despite totalling just 496 at-bats in 2017, a ridiculous 2nd half by Donaldson led to a 5.1 fWAR. In 2018, he just played in 36 games. He was non-existent in 2018 due to injury.

The Blue Jays plan with Donaldson was quite clear. Unless they were blown away last off-season, as they were planning on keeping him and trying to compete as best they could in 2018. Unfortunately the plan backfired on them and they had to settle for an August deadline deal to the Cleveland Indians for rehabbing starter Julian Merryweather.

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Once it became clear to the Blue Jays that Josh Donaldson wasn’t going to be healthy enough to be dealt at the deadline, I would have liked to see the front office hold on to the slugger for the purposes of slapping a qualifying offer on him. Given the season Donaldson had, it would be highly unlikely for him to reject the qualifying offer. Even if he did, it would also be hard to envision a scenario where a team would take a chance on Donaldson with a qualifying offer attached to him.

For just under $18 million, the risk of keeping Donaldson around for the strict purpose of having him be healthy to flip him at the deadline would have been worth the money. Surely if Donaldson had a season more like 2017, he could have fetched the Blue Jays more than a rehabbing pitcher in Julian Merryweather. If 2019 went completely sideways again with Donaldson, one could see the Blue Jays being able to acquire a Merryweather type return.

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There’s a ton of hypotheticals here. I get that. But if I was the Blue Jays, I would have kept Donaldson, hit him with a qualifying offer and tried it all again to flip him for what likely could have been better value than Julian Merryweather, which is not meant to be any sort of slander against Merryweather either.

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