It's been a handful of years since Josh Donaldson was anything close to the MVP-caliber player he was during his stint on the Toronto Blue Jays. The 2015 AL MVP last had an OPS+ over 100 (which is league-average) in 2021 and has struggled mightily to remain healthy and productive in each year since.
This past season, the 37-year-old made it into a combined 50 games between the Yankees and Brewers. In that time, he hit just 13 home runs with a .152 batting average, .667 OPS and 79 OPS+; all farcries from the offensive output he had during his heyday.
The three-time All-Star recently spoke to Josh Wegman of The Score to reflect on his four-year stint in Toronto. He tells Wegman that at the time of the trade, he was initially shocked to be leaving the "good group of guys" that the Oakland A's had assembled. "But then", he said, "my second thought was, 'OK, I'm gonna have Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Russell Martin and Jose Reyes at the time, some dudes in the lineup. This is gonna be sick.'"
Donaldson goes on to say that he didn't have a ton of expectations for the city of Toronto once the deal went down, but he ended up loving his time there. He mentioned that then-general manager Alex Anthopoulos told the team that if they won games, the fans would come.
"Sure enough", he said, "the first half of the season it was still half-filled stadiums. I just remember the game of David Price's first start. It was a sellout and I remember just going into the clubhouse that day. We had David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Lowe, Ben Revere on top of all the guys we already had. I remember walking in, Drake music playing, I had goosebumps seeing the guys that were in the locker room. We had a chance to win it all. And we felt like we had the chance and we let it go. That's baseball. That team was special, it was special to be a part of. It was exciting to see how the dynamic of the city of Toronto itself changed just throughout the midst of one season. In 2016 it was packed houses every night. In '17 it was packed houses until September. So it was great."
In the interview, Wegman brought up a potential reunion between Donaldson and the Blue Jays. "Yeah, definitely looking forward to seeing if they reach out", the 13-year veteran said. With Matt Chapman likely departing in free agency, the Jays have a hole to fill at the third base position.
"That would definitely be something that I would be interested in doing", he continued. "That's just where I've always felt like was home for me. My fiancée, she's from Toronto. Our kids are half-Canadian. Her family is all up there, which would be great for them to be able to be around all year long. For me, that would be the tip of the iceberg, which would be great and we'll see what happens."
The nostalgic aspect here is going to tug on the heartstrings of Blue Jays fans everywhere. Donaldson was such an integral part of some of the best lineups in the franchise's history. In his prime, the "Bringer of Rain" hit 116 home runs in just four seasons, with a .281 average, a whopping .931 OPS and a 148 OPS+. There is no doubt that he's one of the best players to ever suit up for the Jays.
However, the aforementioned struggles he's gone through as of late should, frankly, scare the Blue Jays away. Father Time catches up to all, and Donaldson appears to be just as susceptible to that as anyone else. Sure, there's some merit behind the fact that the 2023 season could be an outlier for him. But even his performance the year before in which he hit .222 with a 93 OPS+ in 132 games for the Yankees was nowhere close to the production he once had.
A reunion would be nice on paper and for nostalgia's sake, but if the Blue Jays decide Josh Donaldson is the answer to their third base vacancy, the club is in real trouble.