As the Toronto Blue Jays prepare for the 2018 season, one of the main storylines will be the future of Josh Donaldson in the Great White North. The star third baseman and 2015 American League MVP is slated to hit the free agent market after the season, and it appears as though this could be his last year in Toronto:
Josh Donaldson says he and #BlueJays just aren't there on extension talks. He's expecting to hit free agency. Happy to play for #BlueJays, happy with front office, but "turning the page" on extension talks to focus on field, he said— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) February 19, 2018
Josh Donaldson: “Ross (Atkins) and I and my agent have talked and we’re just not there right now.” Does he expect to hit free agency? "Yes." #BlueJays— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) February 19, 2018
Donaldson and the Jays avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year deal worth $23 million, but it sounds like GM Ross Atkins and president Mark Shapiro aren't willing to give the 32-year-old a long-term deal.
The Blue Jays received multiple trade offers for Donaldson in the offseason, but Atkins has maintained that the team is simply better with him on the field. Instead of securing a big package of talented prospects for Donaldson, the front office will hope he can lead the team on one last playoff journey.
Unless something drastically changes in negotiations, the Jays are sure to lose their franchise player - and you have to think there will be backlash from a large portion of the fans.
Toronto didn't re-sign star slugger Edwin Encarnacion after the 2016 season, instead replacing him with the less-effective Kendrys Morales. David Price - who anchored this team to the playoffs in 2015 - never received an offer from the Jays and signed with the Boston Red Sox.
According to Spotrac.com, the Jays payroll is just over $156.24 million. Nonetheless, it hasn't been in the team's cards to hand out massive contracts to their star players. Not even to perennial stars like Encarnacion and apparently Donaldson, who led this team to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016.
Donaldson batted .270 with 33 home runs and 78 RBI in 2017, though the Blue Jays missed the playoffs in a frustrating year. We'll see how things unfold in what's shaping up to be his final year north of the border.