TODAY: The Toronto front office evidently isn’t giving up its hopes of working something out. GM Ross Atkins tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links) that he believes the team has simply not “realized a deal yet” with Donaldson — suggesting the emphasis falls on the word “yet.”
Whether an agreement can ultimately be struck may depend upon whether the sides can agree to a way of “sharing risk,” says Atkins. It seems the organization will also need to find a way to draw Donaldson and his reps to the bargaining table while respecting his stated desire to turn his focus to preparing for the season.
YESTERDAY: Blue Jays fans have long hoped that 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson would ink a long-term deal to remain with the club beyond the 2018 campaign, but the third baseman acknowledged to reporters today that he expects to reach free agency after initial extension talks didn’t prove fruitful (link via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith).
“We’re not quite there,” said Donaldson. “…not at the same type of area, the same ballpark.” Donaldson added that an extension is not a “major focus” for him at this time and said he’s “turning the page” on the matter and shifting his focus to the 2018 season. The Athletic’s John Lott tweets that Donaldson did suggest talks could “ramp back up” if things change, but it sounds like the Jays and Donaldson’s representatives at MVP Sports aren’t especially close at the moment.
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins spoke two weeks ago about the possibility of signing Donaldson to a long-term contract, revealing that while the two sides hadn’t conversed at the time, the team had done its homework in determining a valuation for Donaldson that they’d take to negotiations. Said Atkins at the time: “…We have come up with a clear walkaway that we would be willing to commit to him to extend (the contract) for him to remain a Blue Jay probably for the rest of his career.” Evidently, that (still-unknown) offer level was not sufficient to interest the star.
Donaldson, 32, rebounded from a pedestrian start to his 2017 season to post a ludicrous .302/.410/.698 slash and 22 homers through his final 227 plate appearances last season. That brilliant stretch brought him to a final batting line of .270/.385/.559 and 33 home runs on the year overall. Donaldson, unsurprisingly, expressed to Nicholson-Smith, Lott and others that he feels he can maintain an elite level of play for years to come (Twitter links). “I truly believe that where I’m at today, I have longevity in this game performing at a high level,” said Donaldson.
Donaldson will play out his final season of team control on a $23MM salary that is a record for a player on a one-year deal in the arbitration process. Barring a revival of negotiations, he’s in line to hit free agency in advance of his age-33 season. Donaldson was, of course, something of a late bloomer, as he didn’t cement himself as a big league regular until his age-27 season. The fact that he’ll reach free agency a couple of years later than many of his peers only stands to present further hurdles for the two sides to clear in determining contract length and annual value.