The fate of Josh Donaldson will be one of the key Blue Jays storylines during the offseason. Donaldson, despite missing over 40 games, he managed to be worth 5 wins above replacement (fWAR). On a Win per plate appearances scale, he would’ve been the ninth most valuable position player (minimum 450 plate appearances). In other words, he’s still one of the best players in the game.
We all know the story. The relatively cheap star who won MVP and has arguably the greatest peak of any Blue Jay. The man who has a very good case for best position player behind Mike Trout.
Donaldson, however, will be 32 when the season starts, and 33 when his new contract would kick in. The Blue Jays finished with a 76-86 record, the fifth worst in the American League. Both factors make keeping Donaldson for a year tricky business. If you don’t think the Jays have a good shot at the playoffs this year and don’t want to sign him for his services starting at age 33, it would be best to trade him and look to the future.
Offensively, Donaldson was still dynamite with a 149 wRC+, the third best mark of his career. Only 10 hitters had superior park adjusted offence. The biggest red flag was his strikeout rate jumping up to 22.4%. Donaldson hasn’t cracked the 20’s since his limited time in 2012. The big spike occurred in July when he struck out in 29% of plate appearances. The good news is that it’s not an overtly major concern just yet. He posted a swinging strike rate of 10.8% which is slightly above his career average (10.2%). Furthermore, Donaldson’s swing rates at pitches outside the zone remained consistent with his career. It’s something to watch for in 2018. With the bat, Donaldson remains one of the most dangerous sluggers.
Defensively, it’s a different story. Donaldson’s UZR/150 has been falling for four straight years. Over the past three seasons, Donaldson’s UZR/150 ranks fifth among qualified third baseman (17 players). While that’s good, he entered negative territory in regards to UZR this season. Donaldson might still be a capable fielder at third, it’s clear where he’s headed. He’s almost 32 and defence doesn’t get better with age. DRS tells a similar story. A player who saved 11 runs through defence in 2015, Donaldson didn’t get to half of that in 2016 and 2017 combined. The declining defence suggests he will be a below average defender at third and is likely headed to a 1B/DH role in two to three years.
The question to extend Donaldson is a challenging one. But it really comes down to where one sees the team. Challenging the Yankees and Red Sox for the division title seems like a stretch barring a major acquisition. The Wild Card is the most likely scenario if the Jays plan on competing.
Before digging into his future contract, let’s attempt to approximate how much he is worth now and in the future. There are a few of assumptions.
- Donaldson is projected to be worth 6.3 Wins Above Replacement based on Steamer Projections.
- Arbitration Award: $20.7M (MLBTR estimate)
- Donaldson Will Receive a Qualifying Offer. It’s value will be $10M based on past research of draft picks.
- Cost of War This Season: $9M
- Cost of War at Trade Deadline: $18M
With $46M in surplus value, Donaldson has considerable value. Before looking into the type of haul he could bring, one must assess how much he is worth at the trade deadline. The trade deadline premium is most likely a real thing and the cost per win is roughly double. Donaldson will have about 2 more Wins to contribute and just under $7M left to be paid.Read More »