Many Toronto Blue Jays fans and pundits have been critical for how the front office handled the Josh Donaldson saga, but they made an effort to retain the franchise player beyond 2018 before his surprising trade to the Cleveland Indians.
According to a report from Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports, it's believed the Blue Jays offered Donaldson "more than" the three-year, $75 million deal Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta got from the Philadelphia Phillies. Heyman said it's believed Toronto was "flexible to go at least a bit higher."
Donaldson took the gamble and played out the one-year, $23 million deal he was awarded via arbitration. But an ongoing calf injury has limited him to 36 games in 2018, and he hasn't played a Major League game since May 28. Given his injuries and age (33 in December), Donaldson is unlikely to top the deal Toronto offered him.
Though Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins were widely criticized for not trading Donaldson during last winter, they probably dodged a bullet in not going over the reported three-year offer. Reports suggest they're getting minor league pitching prospect Julian Merryweather from the Cleveland.
Toronto also has baseball's top prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who's likely to turn professional next year. Guerrero is also a third baseman, so it wouldn't have made sense to sign Donaldson long-term, with the former on the verge of becoming the new franchise player.
The Blue Jays front office maintained before the 2018 season that they wanted to keep Donaldson and make a run for the playoffs. Had he stayed healthy throughout, they would have certainly gotten a better return package for him at the July non-waiver deadline. But everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. Donaldson didn't stay healthy, the two sides didn't agree on a contract, and Toronto got hosed in the trade with Cleveland.
But as we saw in the very slow free agent market last winter, teams are cautious about going beyond three years for players in their 30s, even if they're superstars. Donaldson may very well see that the Blue Jays aren't the only team refusing to go beyond three years when he enters free agency this winter.