While most of Toronto's bats languished in 2017, Josh Donaldson only noticed a minor dip in performance once he shook off an early-season calf injury, which cost him about six weeks. After struggling initially upon his return, Donaldson found his swing in the second half, ranking fifth in baseball with a 160 wRC+ after the All-Star break while swatting 24 home runs and reaching base at a .386 clip. The lack of production around Donaldson still proved costly, however, particularly in the runs category, where his total dropped from 122 in 2016 to 65 in 2017. The Blue Jays' aging offensive nucleus makes it unlikely that Donaldson will hit the lofty heights in runs and RBI he reached in 2015 and 2016, but the 32-year-old remains one of the game's premier power bats, even in an era of rising home-run outputs. There is still a lot to like here, though his team context probably takes Donaldson out of the first-round conversation.
Donaldson agreed to a one-year, $23 million deal with the Blue Jays on Friday to avoid arbitration, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports. Although this figure isn't particularly surprising considering Donaldson's abilities, it marks the largest arbitration agreement in the history of the league. During the 2017 season, Donaldson hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and 78 RBI. Besides missing six weeks of the season due to a calf injury in the spring, the 32-year-old nearly put together another MVP-type campaign in the second half, ranking fifth in baseball with a 160 wRC+ after the All-Star break. Expect more of the same from the third baseman in 2018.
Donaldson expressed interest in signing a contract extension with the Blue Jays while talking to reporters on Sunday, according to Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. "I've made it known to our front office that I enjoy being a Toronto Blue Jay, that I enjoy my time here," Donaldson said. "If it's a possibility, I would definitely enjoy being a Blue Jay for a long time. I'm not going to sit here and try to force their hand, and they're not going to sit here and force mine." Donaldson finished the season on a high note after battling a calf injury in the first half, hitting .276/.386/.606 with 24 homers and 53 RBI in 67 games after the All-Star break. Donaldson will go to arbitration for the final time this offseason, so the Jays have one year of control remaining if they want to keep him without making a long-term commitment.
Donaldson is out of the lineup Sunday against the Yankees. Donaldson will give way to Darwin Barney at the hot corner Sunday afternoon. Donaldson dealt with injuries throughout the year and was only able to play in 113 games. He was extremely efficient in that time, as he slugged 33 home runs and notched 78 RBI. However, he did experience a dip in terms of average, as he hit .270 this season, down from his 2016 mark of .284.
The Cardinals plan to make a strong push to acquire Donaldson at the conclusion of the 2017 season, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports. Donaldson, who is in the final year of arbitration eligibility, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018. If the Cardinals were to acquire the 31-year-old veteran, its lineup would immediately receive an offensive boost, but Donaldson's output isn't guaranteed the same results. Since making the Rogers Centre his home in 2015, the MVP third baseman owns a .301 batting average with a .996 OPS and 165 wRC+ through 214 games at his home field in Toronto. During that same stretch, Donaldson's numbers take a noticeable dip when on the road, hitting just .271 with a .901 OPS and 144 wRC+ over 210 games. Dynasty owners should monitor this situation closely, as a move out of the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre would likely decrease Donaldson's preseason value next year.
Donaldson went 3-for-5 with a pair of solo homers against the Red Sox on Tuesday. Both came off star left-hander Chris Sale, and they pushed Donaldson's homer total to 33 in just 110 games this season. If not for the time he missed to injury earlier this year, Donaldson would surely have cleared 40 long balls by now, and while his batting average is down from the last two seasons, he's drawing walks at a higher pace while unleashing his power stroke with regularity. At 31 years old, he should have a number of seasons left as one of the game's top third basemen.