Sigh. At the start of the season, I suggested the Jays might have a valid shot at the playoffs, perhaps even the World Series… if everything went more or less perfectly. Well, not surprisingly, things haven’t been perfect. Sure, Luke Maile has shown himself to be a better hitter than we’d imagined, we suddenly know who Yangervis Solarte is and the bullpen, for the most part has been all we could have hoped for. But of course, then there are the things which are far from as good as expected. While Maile has impressed, Russell Martin’s impressed with his versatility but led to questions as to whether he’s a legitimate big league bat anymore. Justin Smoak’s been OK, but far from last year’s All Star first half first baseman. JA Happ has been decent enough but the rest of the rotation has been, well, let’s admit it, crap… and now 40% of it is on the DL. And let’s not even get started on Roberto Osuna, who was establishing himself as one of the league’s elite closers before he ended up in jail. Clearly, things haven’t played out according to our rose-colored plans.
Which brings us to today’s topic. It’s time to say “goodbye, thanks for the memories” to Josh Donaldson, or at least put him on the baseball equivalent of e-bay. Now, not later. There are really about half a dozen reasons. And I might add, at first I was going to preface it with “after seeing if he’d sign a two or three year extension at something like $10M per…which he almost certainly wouldn’t” but now, I’d not even suggest that. If there’s a need for him next season and the market treats him like it did Mike Moustakas this year, we can make an offer. Right now is the time to cash him in for what we can.
The big reason begins and ends with the team’s play this month. With today’s come-from-behind loss, Toronto sit at 22-24. Now, I still think they can turn it around a bit and get back to .500 or so and reclaim third spot, but playoffs? Let’s get real, that ship has sailed. With Boston and New York both rolling along in overdrive, there’s little chance of winning the division and it’s unrealistic to think anything short of 90 wins will snag the second wild card spot (93 or 94 might be more the reality of it.) To get to 90, T.O. would have to go 68-48 the rest of the way, or .586. A pretty tall order for a team below .500 and dropping and which is 24th in the bigs in ERA. So even if Josh starts to bring the rain again, he’s not going to propel the team into the post-season…. and if he does, it will only make it more likely he walks away as a free agent anyhow.
But, I may not be the only one who is starting to doubt whether this is going to be Josh’s MVP- the Redux year. Currently, he’s at .229 with 5 homers and a .760 OPS- lowest since his rookie year. In his last 8 games, he’s just 5 for 30. And whatever he brings to the bench or into the clubhouse is no longer translating into a dogmatic, can-do attitude for his teammates. Toronto is in fact 5-11 since he came off the disabled list. Now, I’m going to bet that at least some other GMs would bet that Donaldson will get hot again, and we all know that if Bringer of Rain is in a groove, he can be the most dominant hitter in the AL. Some teams clinging on to playoff hope will give up a bit to get that chance for 100 or 110 games. But should Donaldson continue to slump, for say even two weeks more , there might be fewer takers to take on a guy who could be hitting below the Mendoza line for 80 or so games.
The other compelling reasons for trading him now come down to supply and demand. On the one hand, the elephant in the room is there’s a much better left-side infielder bound to be hitting the seller’s floor soon in Manny Machado. Machado is having an MVP style year (.347/14/42 in only 44 games) and is both younger and more versatile than JD as he’s now playing short and could fill that position or third well enough for a new team. It would be smart to beat Baltimore to the punch….
Given that there are not that many likely suitors anyway. Right now the list of teams potentially vying for the playoffs is getting shorter by the week. One has to be truly the eternal optimist to assume Philly or Atlanta weill still be there with the behemoths come Labor day, and surprising as it seems, another losing week or two could easily bury the Dodgers until 2019. The longer the Jays wait, the fewer teams will be around to potentially benefit from a short-term addition. As it is now, the list of potential “buyers” may be no more than four or 5 teams.
Washington seem good with Anthony Rendon, likewise the Cubs with Kris Bryant,Astros with Alex Bregman and Dodgers (if even considered a team still in the running) with Justin Turner coming off the DL this week. Teams which might be considering him would likely include St. Louis (rumored to have been very interested in him back in winter), and, wait for it, Boston and the Yankees.
The Cards have been using both Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko at third so far, and neither’s been “all that”. Carp seems on pace for a career-worst season, hitting .173 with 3 homers, 15 RBI and a lowly .615 OPS in 38 games. Gyorko on the other hand is off to a solid start in 26 games (.292, .905 OPS) but is better suited to shortstop. At only two games out, the Cards could still be bigtime suitors… and as we know, there’s a hotline between Blue Jays and Cardinals front offices based in the number of trades of late.
Even more in need could be our two arch-rivals. The Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored, the Yankees right behind them. Both can pretty much assume their spot in the post-season, but both would surely enjoy having the division and not having to go through that sudden death wild card game. And for both teams, it would seem their Third Baseman might be their achilles heel.
New York are using rookie Miguel Andujar. He’s not terrible- his defence has been quite solid and he’s hitting .277 with 3 homers , 15 RBI. (he’s struck out 29 times to only 3 walks , but that seems to be less embarassing in this day and age than it was a generation back.) Still, you know the Pinstripes wouldn’t turn down a veteran all star to give them that added kick to the finish line.
The Red Sox are even more in need. We’ve talked about Rafael Devers here before, and their young third bagger is doing OK at the plate- .243/7/25 , a .704 OPS but he’s a bull in a china shop in the field , already making 10 errors in 42 games.
If all three were interested, Toronto could drive up the price and could have a say in shaping the AL East. They could trade off to St. Louis, if the offer was good, or if they just wanted to not assist a divisional rival, or they could actually work to weaken their rivals down the road by giving up Donaldson in return for a couple of very good prospects.
Bottom line, Josh Donaldson’s being wasted staying in a Jays uniform. A trade for a couple of solid high-level prospects (the types that could make their presence known in 2019,not A-level kids good to go in 2022 or thereabouts) , or even one ace prospect and a decent major league pitcher who won’t be a free agent after this season would be a smart move. Do it now, Toronto, while the window of opportunity is open.
One more word on the subject. While it may be time for JD to move along, that still doesn’t make it Vlad time. As we noted here last time, there’s no pressing need to rush Guerrero Jr. to the big show, as amazing as his feats in AA have been so far this year.