Goodbye Donaldson

A weekly sports column from the Free Press

Josh Donaldson, a fan favourite of the Toronto Blue Jays, was traded to the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 31 for a “player to be named later” (meaning the Blue Jays will most likely choose an incoming player at the conclusion of the season).

The Floridian came to the Blue Jays from the Oakland Athletics in return for British Columbian Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Franklin Barreto in 2015. Donaldson has since been a player of note in Toronto, winning several awards such as the American League Most Valuable Player, Hank Aaron Award (top hitter, shared with Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals in 2015) and the Players Choice Awards for American League Outstanding Player and Major League Player of the Year.

Donaldson also holds Toronto franchise records for highest single-season total WAR (wins above replacement – 8.8 in 2015) and record for most runs scored before an All-Star break (80 in 2016) and a three-home run game (Aug. 28, 2016).

It’s been two years since the Blue Jays last made the playoffs after getting to the American League Final two years in a row, and it looks unlikely they will make it to the post-season this time around.

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That should be of little surprise as the team’s management signalled it was in rebuild mode. after allowing Edwin Encarnación to hit free agency in 2017 after he rejected a $17.2 million offer from the Jays. He joined the Cleveland Indians for a three-year contract worth $60 million. Joe Bautista, one if not the most popular Blue Jays players, also rejected a $17.2 qualifying offer from the Jays, accepting a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves.

It was looking like it would be the same deal for the injury-ravaged Donaldson, who was seeking a long-term contract extension during the offseason, but didn’t get it.

Donaldson’s decline started early last season after a calf injury. This season, it was a shoulder injury, then his other calf. He hasn’t played a Major League game since May 28.

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The 32-year-old has started playing with one of the Blue Jay’s minor league affiliates, the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Florida State League on a rehab assignment in August.

It was probably too late though, with the Toronto team deciding Donaldson was past his prime and his injuries, especially his calf, would continue to plague him.

They did think he was worth something in return, rather than leave him to the sharks of free agency.

He wasn’t happy in his break up with the team, after all, he was one of the best players to grace the Roger’s Centre in the team’s 40-year history and was instrumental in capturing the 2015 East Division title, Toronto’s first since 1993.

Donaldson is not the only one broken up about the divorce. My father, a big Blue Jays fan, was sorry to see him go but rather accepting of it, noting the team wanted to get younger. Some fans have been less than forgiving, even accusing management of collusion (Blue Jay’s CEO, Mark Shapiro used to work for Cleveland).

Like with every break-up, it takes time to ‘heal’, so saddle up Jays fans. It’s going to be a while until the team gets on the horse again.

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