Depending who you ask, the Toronto Blue Jays either have no interest whatsoever in trading Josh Donaldson or they’re at least considering the thought of dealing their superstar third baseman. A 1 to 99% probability of moving a franchise staple is a huge variance, isn’t it?
If you talk to people around 1 Blue Jays Way, they’ve all but fully assured suitors the Jays aren’t entertaining offers for Donaldson. But if you ask others in the St. Louis Cardinals’ circle, they seem convinced the Redbirds have a faint hope in landing him.
So, which one is it? This one …
Asked about Josh Donaldson on MLB Network, @Ken_Rosenthal says "Not getting traded" without blinking.
— BVH (@BVHJays) December 11, 2017
Or this one?
The #STLCards optimistic they will land at least one bat if not two by end of week with Marcell Ozuna, Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria in play
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 13, 2017
If the Blue Jays are so adamant about keeping Donaldson, why do reports (like this one from St. Louis) keep surfacing about the Bringer of Rain being “discussed” with other teams?
Despite the shifting landscape within the American League, I don’t believe the Blue Jays’ stance on Donaldson has changed. Just because the Yankees got that much better by getting Giancarlo Stanton – just because the Angels are apparently going for it this year – doesn’t mean the Blue Jays’ immediate plans for Donaldson should deviate.
I’m convinced he’ll be in Toronto on Opening Day 2018. He may not finish the 2018 season as a Toronto Blue Jay, but that’s a different story.
Let’s say the Blue Jays are entertaining offers on Donaldson this winter – they’d never say as much. The Jays run the risk of running into a situation as the Marlins did with Giancarlo Stanton; everybody in baseball knew he was for sale and it left the Marlins in a “take it or leave it” scenario with trade partners.
Even if a team like the St. Louis Cardinals comes to the Blue Jays with a very attractive offer for Donaldson, wouldn’t it look weird for the Jays to suddenly do an about-face and trade a player they openly admitted they can’t imagine being competitive without?
Unless the offer has gotten better from the Cardinals (or any other prospective suitor for Donaldson), it doesn’t make sense for the Blue Jays to suddenly shift gears.
Given that most of these reports are stemming from St. Louis, I wonder if it’s the Cardinals using the Blue Jays as leverage to get the real third baseman they want; someone like Manny Machado or Evan Longoria.
It’s fun to imagine the Cardinals planting a seed of doubt in the minds of the Orioles or Rays about a potential trade for one of their third baseman. All it may take is floating a rumour about the Cards to Donaldson to get things moving.
If you’re the Cardinals and you’re trying to expedite trade talks or you’re looking for leverage with the Orioles for Machado or the Rays for Longoria, it makes sense to use the Blue Jays as a pawn in negotiations with Baltimore or Tampa Bay.
During last week’s Winter Meetings, Alex Anthopoulos was on the Jeff Blair Show and noted that during his time as GM of the Blue Jays, his team was used all the time in unfounded reports. Anthopoulos made it a policy to never comment on particular players, which played perfectly into the hands of agents or rival executives pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Much like free agents – much like acquisition pieces they’d like to have – I think the Blue Jays have a price they’re willing to pay and a price they’re willing to accept on all players. There are untouchables on this roster, but Donaldson isn’t one of them.
As mentioned, unless the Cardinals come back to the table with a “can’t say no” offer for Donaldson, I don’t think a deal gets done this winter. At this juncture, it still doesn’t make sense for the Jays to trade him right now.
If 2018 is the final year of contention with this core of Blue Jays players, Donaldson is far more valuable to the Blue Jays as an everyday player than a trade chip. Since he’s a free agent at season’s end, the prospect haul for Donaldson might actually be a little underwhelming. He won’t command a Chris Sale or Adam Eaton-type prospect haul in return.
Players with only one year of team control is very tricky in trade talks, because it mostly limits negotiations with teams who feel they’re in contention for 2018 or they need a player like Donaldson to push them over the top.
One report indicated the Cardinals weren’t willing to give up a bounty of prospects for only one year of Donaldson.
Asked #STLCards GM Girsch a/b idea of trading for cornerstone-type player (Ex: Machado) who comes w/ 1-year left before free agency. He said you only make that deal if able to stomach cost of trade, plus risk of not extending guy. Said it's "not a path we are likely to go down."
— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) December 13, 2017
The Cardinals weren’t one player away, but now that they’ve acquired Marcell Ozuna and signed Luke Gregorson, they’re inching closer towards becoming a contender again in the NL Central. Perhaps they feel like Donaldson is the calibre of player to push them over the top.
Which if that’s the case, the Blue Jays should be all ears if and when the Cardinals come calling again.