Toronto Blue Jays
Heyman | Will Josh Donaldson hit the market this summer?
Josh Donaldson could be a major wild card on the trade block this summer.
While Donaldson isn’t seen as an obvious trade candidate since the Blue Jays are above .500 (and he wasn’t included on our list of 40 trade candidates, or the list of 20 a week later), the Jays are in a tough spot in the stacked AL East even at around .500, and Donaldson is a free agent with a seemingly low probability of re-signing with the Jays.
The Jays will monitor things over the next few weeks, but as a rare team in the middle, it’s apparent they could go either way.
If they do decide to sell, they could make some hay. Donaldson would obviously be the big one, but their bullpen has been surprisingly excellent, even beyond the inactive closer Roberto Osuna (who’s awaiting word after an alleged spousal abuse incident).
Yangervis Solarte is a versatile player who could help a contender, and like Donaldson, starting pitcher J.A. Happ also is a free-agent-to-be. The Braves, Cardinals and maybe even Indians are seen as possible players in the third base markets.
Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos acquired him for Toronto, which has folks speculating that that could be a landing spot should Toronto decide to sell. The Indians, who probably have more pressing bullpen and outfield issues, could look for a second or third baseman (if they added someone for third, they could move Jose Ramirez to second, where Jason Kipnis has struggled).
The Jays love Donaldson and are known to have had some talks with him over the winter, but there’s no evidence of talks lately, and a low probability that he won’t become a free agent. Free agency hasn’t been easy for third basemen in recent years, as the supply is strong; no figures have been attached to Donaldson, but he’s of similar age and record to Charlie Blackmon, who signed for $108 million over six years. (Donaldson, as a former MVP, tops him in the cachet dept. however, so he’s surely seeking a bigger deal.)
Donaldson has been back at third after returning from the DL, and the shoulder issue that dogged him earlier doesn’t appear to be affecting his throwing now. The Blue Jays certainly are stacked with third basemen at the moment, as they made a nice trade earlier for Solarte, and recently added Gio Urshela from the Indians, who’s currently manning shortstop (Solarte is playing second). The Jays’ top prospect also happens to be a third baseman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who has big-time pedigree and power and is one of the very best prospects in the game, but they seem to want to guard against rushing him. Guerrero’s bat is of superstar caliber, but it remains to be seen whether he’s a third basemen long-term.
It should be noted that the Jays and Cardinals carried on extensive talks this winter, though ultimately the Jays made clear at the time they’d have to be overwhelmed, since any trade would certainly diminish their chances in 2018. The Cardinals would seem to be a logical candidate in a Donaldson trade as their third base production is below average, their overall offense has been inconsistent and they showed a serious interest in Donaldson. The Cardinals could also consider Mike Moustakas, and though they opted not to play for him this winter, he’s improving his stock by the day following a disappointing winter.
There aren’t a lot of other contending teams that are desperate to improve their third-base situation. Donaldson is, of course, such a great hitter that teams with DH issues also could be interested, as could teams with first base issues, and that could expand the field.
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