Blue Jays have been down this road before with an injured veteran
While it’s understandable that the Blue Jays want to get George Springer back in the lineup, they need to remember how that went for another injured veteran a few years ago. I mean, I wrote about this roughly six weeks ago, and yet it’s played out as poorly as I feared it might.
Back in 2018 the Blue Jays had some hopes of being a contending team, but were also in the very beginning stages of a soft rebuild. Caught somewhere in the middle of all of that was 2015 MVP Josh Donaldson, who was scheduled to be a free agent at the end of that year. There were rumours of possible extension talks, but eventually it became clear that Donaldson wasn’t going to be part of the long-term plans in Toronto, which meant he was destined to get traded.
Except the “Bringer of Rain” just couldn’t get healthy, and in the end it wasn’t until the 11th hour before the August 30th trade deadline that he was moved to Cleveland, and that deadline is no longer even a thing. With all due respect to Julian Merryweather, who came back to Toronto in the deadline, the entire situation was nothing short of a disaster. Whether it was “dead arm” when he couldn’t throw the ball across the diamond to first base, or a nagging calf injury that wouldn’t go away, Donaldson played his last game for the Jays on May 28th that year, and didn’t make another big league appearance until Sept 11 after the trade had been completed.
Why am I re-living all of this nonsense? Well, because what’s happening with George Springer right now feels awfully similar. Fortunately the Jays aren’t entertaining an expiring contract or trying to position themselves for a trade, but the way they’re handling their injured All-Star is far too reminiscent of what happened with Donaldson.
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Remember when John Gibbons was trying to find a creative way to talk about Donaldson’s dead arm without sounding the alarm? Gibby wasn’t able to fool us for very long either, and he was a way better liar than Charlie Montoyo. As the current Blue Jays skipper has discussed Springer’s absence, sighting anything from “fatigue” to planned days off, I’m sure I’m not the only fan that has been rolling my eyes at home. It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that Springer hasn’t been at 100%
The biggest mistake the Blue Jays made with Donaldson in 2018 was that they kept trying to bring him back too quickly. There was motivation for both the club and the player, as it was obvious that a trade to a contender was in the cards, but in the end the impatience cost the Blue Jays a chance to get a lot more value for their star three-bagger. It looks like they may get some value in return with their wild card gamble on Merryweather, but it was a wasted opportunity for the front office.
As far as Springer is concerned, that same urgency just doesn’t exist for the 31 year old (who coincidentally is the same age that Donaldson was in 2018). I realize that the team is far better with him in the lineup, but risking further aggravation of his ailments at this early stage of the season is foolish. It’s now also pretty obvious that he came back too quickly last week, as he didn’t even make it back to play defence before he tweaked something. The Blue Jays haven’t openly discussed whatever is going on, but if Springer can’t run to first base without hurting himself, the Jays need to do the wise thing and put him back on the Injured List.
It’s not how anyone wants thing to go, but after we watched Donaldson repeatedly try to make it back to the field before he was ready in 2018, the Blue Jays need to remember the lesson they learned back then.