Why the Blue Jays should trade Josh Donaldson and head in a new direction
Jays have said goodbye to Encarnacion and will to Bautista. Should they move on from Donaldson, too?
On Sunday, long-time Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista got a standing ovation from the hometown fans as a show of appreciation for all the joy he's brought them over the year. Long-time slugger Edwin Encarnacion departed via free agency after last season, too. Along with those two players, former MVP Josh Donaldson formed a killer trio of big bats that helped the Blue Jays make the ALCS two straight years.
With two now gone, it seems fitting that this is the perfect time for the Blue Jays to send Josh Donaldson on his way as well.
Donaldson is still an excellent all-around player, but it seems pretty likely his MVP days are just slightly behind him. He's going to be 32 years old next season. It's also his last year under team control before hitting free agency. Assuming the Blue Jays won't or can't agree to an extension with him this coming offseason, shipping him to a would-be contender as a one-year rental seems like the play.
As currently constructed, it doesn't appear the Jays are a great bet to reach the postseason next year, meaning they should get the most they can out of Donaldson on the trade market and the best time would be this offseason.
The best free agent third baseman is Mike Moustakas with Todd Frazier coming second. Moustakas is going to be very coveted, but past that it's slim pickings on guys who figure to greatly cash in. Teams that could be looking for a third baseman to contend in 2018, off the top of my head, could be the Mets, Giants, Royals (they can't afford to bring Moustakas back, but trading for one year of Donaldson seems like a longshot that might work) and Angels. Maybe the Yankees would give it a shot, too, who knows?
The point is there will be a strong market for Donaldson, should the Blue Jays make him available.
Given the state of the franchise, I believe this is the right move.
The core is old. Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin are 33 and 35, respectively, next season. Kendrys Morales is also 35. Justin Smoak is even going to be 31. On the pitching side, there's also Marco Estrada (34) and J.A. Happ (35).
It seems to me this is the time to pivot to the foundation of players like Marcus Stroman (27 years old next year, under team control through 2020), Aaron Sanchez (25 and also controlled through 2020), Roberto Osuna (23 and 2020) while looking forward to promising position-playing prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. The latter group would be supplemented with whatever the Jays got in return for Donaldson in a trade. Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez have promise. The Blue Jays are already said to have a good farm system, so a deal here only adds to it.
Moving Donaldson wouldn't even be the start of a major rebuild. There are younger pieces here to build around already. The Jays just need to start ridding themselves of the mid-30s nucleus and get younger. Trading Donaldson -- the most valuable piece of the 30-plus bunch -- helps push them in that direction this offseason.
The Encarnacion and Bautista eras are over, now it's time to completely move on from that group by trading Donaldson.
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