The Blue Jays have signed Josh Donaldson to a 2-year $29MM deal and will avoid going to arbitration for the second year in a row, ahead of his hearing which was scheduled for February 15th. The Blue Jays had offered $11.35MM while Donaldson filed at $11.8MM, many had questioned going to a hearing over such a small difference but the Blue Jays currently operate under the “file and trial” strategy.
The Blue Jays have bought out 2 of Donaldson’s 3 remaining years of control and will still have 1 final year of arbitration heading into the 2018 season. While we don’t have word on the breakout of the contract yet, something in the range of $12MM & $17MM would make sense. This gives the front office a set cost for 2017, avoids going to arbitration next season and potentially gives more time on a potential long-term deal. For Donaldson he realistically doesn’t give up too much in potential earnings but also hasn’t given up any of his FA years.
Many fans would like to see the 2015 MVP locked up for the long-term and be a fixture in the middle of the order for many season to come. This deal does not do much for the long-term, it simply is a means to avoid going to this years arbitration deal and gives the team certainty on his 2017 salary. So far the new front office has not shown their cards for the long-term plan by sticking to short-term deals but again for Donaldson he still is under control for 3 season so an extension is not an immediate need. This contract could be a pillow deal until a longer term extension can be finalized which would buy out several years of FA.
I believe Shapiro & Ross need to first address the plans for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion which will play a massive role in future payroll commitments. Should one or both leave at season’s end the Blue Jays will have some payroll flexibility as Shapiro/Ross shape the team for the coming years.
For the casual fan this deal buys a little favour with Shapiro/Ross who have a ways to go to buy the fans appreciation. It’s always a good PR move to extend the MVP and a fan favorite but in reality it accomplishes little. I won’t suggest this was a poor move, as it’s not but it’s merely a formality. I do think before this 2-year contract expires that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Donaldson to a 5 or 6 year extension to keep him for the long-term but for now Shapiro/Ross have bought themselves some time to sort out the long-term plan. As well Donaldson has earned himself a nice payout for the next two seasons.