What once looked to be a potentially minor trip to the disabled list for Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson will now be prolonged in fairly considerable fashion. The Blue Jays revealed today that Donaldson incurred a setback while fielding ground-balls in Florida as part of his rehab program (Twitter link via Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling). An MRI has already been taken, revealing an “acute strain” of his calf muscle that’ll require him to be shut down once again. Donaldson will be reevaluated in three weeks, per Zwelling.
That timeline figures to knock Donaldson out for the remainder of the first half, as he’ll assuredly be eased back into baseball activities before ramping up and heading out on a minor league rehab assignment.
It’s already been nearly a month since Donaldson last saw action in a big league game. He’s been on the disabled list twice this season, with the other stint coming due to inflammation in his throwing shoulder. Obviously, that’s not how Donaldson hoped his contract season would play out — especially not after a monster finish to the 2017 season in which he hit .302/.410/.698 in August and September to close out the 2017 season, homering 22 times in 227 plate appearances along the way.
The 32-year-old Donaldson has been limited to just 159 plate appearances so far in 2018, hitting at a .234/.333/.423 pace with five homers. That combination of solid on-base skills and useful power numbers (.190 ISO) isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s nowhere near the lofty standards that the 2015 AL MVP has established for himself since breaking out as one of the league’s best all-around players back in 2013. As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes noted on the latest edition of MLBTR’s 2018-19 Free Agent Power Rankings, Donaldson’s injury troubles could be significantly diminishing his earning power in free agency; Donaldson ranked fourth on the first edition of the list but fell to eighth on this month’s update back on June 7.
There is, of course, still time for Donaldson to return and rebuild some of his stock. But at 33 years of age this winter and with an absence that could now approach two months for his current calf injury, Donaldson will have a fairly big hole out which to dig himself, and his reps at MVP Sports will have some work to do in convincing interested teams that his injuries come with minimal changes of lingering into 2019 and beyond.
As for the Blue Jays, the setback Donaldson is especially problematic given their status as sellers at this summer’s non-waiver deadline. Even in a best-case scenario, Donaldson would have minimal time to return and showcase his health prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. Perhaps his sizable $23MM salary for the 2018 season would allow him to clear revocable trade waivers and be marketed in August, but there’s no denying that his value on the trade market has taken a substantial hit and robbed the Jays of some opportunity to acquire meaningful prospect capital in exchange for the final few months of control over Donaldson.
While many fans will wonder whether this setback could impact the timeline of uber-prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it’s worth reminding that Guerrero himself hasn’t played since June 6 due to a strained patellar tendon in his left knee. He was slated to be evaluated four weeks after sustaining his own injury, and the Jays will presumably want to get him some reps in minor league games before even considering a promotion to the Majors.