Are the Blue Jays Working on a Josh Donaldson Contract Extension?

With Spring Training just around the corner, mid-to-late February is a fun time to be a baseball fan again. But for some baseball players, February is likely their least favourite time of the year for one reason – salary arbitration.

The Blue Jays’ newly minted third baseman Josh Donaldson is one of those aforementioned players who is poised to head to arbitration. Donaldson will make his case for a $5.75 million dollar salary, while the Blue Jays countered with a $4.3 million dollar figure.

But depending on what happens over the course of the next week or so, the Toronto Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson might not even have to worry about salary arbitration; maybe negotiations for a long-term contract extension are taking place behind the scenes.


At the State of the Franchise, Alex Anthopoulos spoke about the club’s new acquisitions, and in doing so may have made a Freudian slip when it comes to the future of Josh Donaldson.

“I think the key thing for us is anybody we brought in had a chance to be a core player and be here for a long time.

Whether it’s free agent commitments like Martin, or a guy like Donaldson being here for four years, at least four years … at least, and knowing they can be mainstays for us are opportunities they we weren’t going let pass by.”

It should be noted that Anthopoulos placed a very big emphasis on the “at least” part when he described how Josh Donaldson fits into the plans of the franchise. Perhaps it was a hint that a contract extension is in order for the Blue Jays’ new third baseman?

As you’ll recall, the Blue Jays have a self-imposed “file and trial” policy which deters them from completing any one-year deals with players and pushes both sides towards contract extensions.

As it currently stands, Josh Donaldson is under team control for four more seasons, and if things keep progressing as they are, Donaldson could be set to make a huge amount of money in his final years of arbitration.

The only way for the Blue Jays to mitigate that is to agree on a long-term contract extension for Josh Donaldson which would buy out his arbitration years, and possibly even a few years of his free agency.

In most cases, it wouldn’t be very wise to ink a player long term sight unseen (they dodged a bullet by not doing it with Josh Johnson), but this is one instance where it would behoove the Blue Jays to strongly consider extending Donaldson now before his salary escalates to an astronomic rate over the next few years.

Plus, Josh Donaldson surely figures into the long-term plans of the Blue Jays anyway. If things go according to plan, he’ll be in Toronto through the 2018 season, and buying out those arbitration years would merely be a formality.

At the same time, the Blue Jays might even get a discount on any potential add-on years of Donaldson’s free agency. Again, it’s a somewhat risky proposition to extend him sight unseen, but by all indications the organization sounds like they’re quite infatuated with what Donaldson’s body of work.

This scenario kind of hearkens back to the situation the Blue Jays found themselves in with Jose Bautista a few years back. Alex Anthopoulos made arguably the riskiest move of his young career by avoiding arbitration with Bautista and signing him to a five-year/$65 million dollar contract extension.


At least with Josh Donaldson, he has two MVP calibre seasons under his belt, but at the time, Jose Bautista only had one. Bautista very well could’ve been a one-off, but heading into arbitration, Donaldson by comparison is the safer bet.

In the past two seasons he’s posted consecutive seasons of 158 games played, and more importantly Josh Donaldson has also owned MVP-calibre campaigns.

Durability was a major concern with Brett Lawrie (185 total games missed over the past four seasons), but with Josh Donaldson now handling the hot corner for the Blue Jays, durability is the least of their concerns (he missed just 6 total games the past four seasons).

It’s not known when exactly Josh Donaldson’s salary arbitration case is slated for, but it could be anytime between now and February 20th. That certainly seems like enough time to hammer out some sort of contract extension before hearing date.

Signing an extension now is not only beneficial for the Blue Jays, but Josh Donaldson and his agent as well. This way they don’t have to slug it out in court every season, and while arbitration may only be a minor inconvenience, it’s one that can be avoided entirely.

However, if Donaldson and his agent are adamant at extracting the most amount of money possible from the Blue Jays, then


The Blue Jays did have an impressive 18 year streak of avoiding arbitration with their players, however that streak came to an end last week when Danny Valencia won his hearing. So if they went to arbitration with Valencia, they could very well with Donaldson too.

Although the deadline is looming to work something out before the hearing, the Blue Jays aren’t actually obligated to get a contract extension done with Josh Donaldson. But it would be financially advantageous for them to do so right now.

Image via Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images Sport

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.