What To Do With JD
So we've reached that time again where another big name Blue Jay contract is coming up and the team hasn't offered him a long term extension. I'm going to break it down and explain a few reasons why they should give him a contract and a few why they shouldn't.
Hold on just a bit. You're not getting the good stuff right away...I'll work up to it. I get it; a lot of fans are panicking wondering why this hasn't happened and blaming it on management and so on and so forth and you know what? It's getting tiring. AA was always a file and trial GM meaning that he'd always take every player eligible to an arbitration hearing because the team had control. It makes the most sense. Why overspend and take on all the risk on a player when you can keep them at a low cost? I'm not going to get into the semantics of arbitration but you can find out all the details by searching for MLB arbitration rules.
The gist of it is if that you have less than 6 years service time you can't become a free agent and the money you can make is a bit limited. Now that's the simple part of it. However; it can get complicated when a player is really, really good and gets a late start when coming to the Major Leagues. Josh Donaldson fits this bill. He didn't come to the majors until he was 24 and wasn't a full time player and therefore eligible for arbitration until he was 26. That hurts. On the good side though; he became the MVP the year the Jays broke their playoff drought which means he got paid in arbitration. When most guys are making good money but not great (I mean they get paid millions of dollars) JD jumped up to $12 million. The following year; it jumped to $17 million and this year the Jays signed him to a one year deal worth $23 million to avoid arbitration.
So unfortunately for JD his earning potential is cut short by the fact that he didn't become arbitration eligible until a much later stage in life. So it's time break down the why and why nots of signing this man to a long term contract.
Let's start with the positives on why we should sign him long term. Simply put; he puts people in the seats. He's an MVP caliber player when healthy and he plays a premium position. The Jays transformed into an elite team the moment he took the field for him. It's almost like the clubhouse culture changed and he took control. He had the one of the best quotes when the Jays were struggling out of the gate in 2015; "This isn't try league; this is the get it done league. Eventually they're going to find people to get it done." This was exactly what you wanted to hear as a fan and I'm sure the exact thing management and the coaching staff wanted to hear too. That's a leader. That is the type of guy you pay. The moment I heard this quote all I was the happiest fan out there...or at least one of them.
The only person with a higher WAR since 2013 in the American League is Mike Trout. You may have heard of him. Basically the best baseball player on planet Earth and probably one of the top ones in the universe if there are other lifeforms that play baseball out there. So that's pretty good. Aside from last year he's played almost every game each year and is very, very consistent. Plus; when he hits a homerun you get to see a moment of pure joy on his face when he knows he's hit one. Seriously; watch the gif. His reaction is probably my favourite thing in baseball. The knowledge that he's done something incredible and takes just a second to acknowledge it before rounding the bases.
So I've laid out the reasons on why he should be on this team long term. Now the bad news. Take a breathe. Don't yell through your computer or phone at me for saying this: I'm not sure having Josh Donaldson on this team is the best thing for the long term. Hear me out now. Look; he's a great player. I'm not here to debate that. The problem is he's getting older. He thinks he's going to be elite until he's 38 or 39 and I don't blame him one bit for thinking that. The issue is he won't be; and when he starts to drop off you're paying him for past production. I'd be all for paying him a 5 year contract if the team was championship contenders for the next three years. They won't be. This team has most of it's contracts coming up this year and next. That's when the talent at the minor league level will be making it's way to the majors and need a year or two before they are ready to be top end players (hopefully). This team already has two massive, untradeable contracts on their roster with Martin and Tulo. The last thing we need is another bad contact. What I'm fearful of last years injuries not being an outlier but the sign of things to come. You look at Bautista a couple of years back with a couple of nagging injuries and everyone said he was the type of player that would play and be productive late in his career. We saw first hand how that worked out. I've said it before and I'll say it again; when age catches up to athletes it happens quickly.
Remember on the last post where I said sports radio should stay away from anyone who isn't involved in covering the sport on a day to day basis. Jays broadcaster, Buck Martinez, said this the other day: I think that's the one thing that analytics is really bad at; they throw everyone into the same pot. And obviously not everybody is the same...some guys age better..."
He then doubled down on it comparing JD and Jose at the age they are at saying "Well Jose is now 37." So I take it back. Sports radio just needs to shut every thing down. No more hosts, no more guests....nothing. Just absolutely nothing. First point. Jesus Buck; you really went all in on that hot take. Yes analytics groups everyone into a similar pot because it looks at highly detailed stats of trends and facts that have been presented over decades of data collection. I can name two players off the top of my head in the post steriod era that have been productive into their age 37 season and beyond: Adrien Beltre and David Ortiz (the latter was hinted at as a user but I'm not here to argue that point). Other than that; I can't name any one that was an every day player that was productive. So that's what analytics do Buck; they are generally a good predictor of what is going to happen.
Then doubling down on the age thing. Guess what Josh wants to be paid for 2-3 years past his age 37 season. Soooo; that would be a horrible contract; especially if he's looking to make a ton of cash over the course of an 7-8 year contract. No GM in their right mind is going to give an aging and definitely declining player 60-100 million extra on a contract for the final 3 years of that crazy long contract. I'm all for giving him a 3 or 4 year contract with 2 team option years and have the contract front loaded. I'm all for that. Problem is; all it takes is one team to completely screw this up. There's got to be someone crazy enough to give him 5 or 6 years. I don't know who but it could happen.
Here's what I know. The Jays say they want him here. JD says he wants to be here; but all smart athletes say that. That means they don't alienate the fans like Jose Bautista did a couple of years ago when he said he was going to get paid one way or another. Didn't work out that well. So the team and the player are on good terms. If the Jays are close to contending come the trade deadline; JD is staying put; but if they are completely out of it; don't be shocked if he's auctioned off to the highest bidder (and there will be multiple teams) for prospects and players. If he sticks through the trade deadline; I don't expect the team resign him in the offseason; it doesn't make sense unfortunately. He's going to command a ton of cash and the Jays ownership (not the management team) is tight on giving out contracts to older players as it doesn't like the risk.
So her is the deal. JD is more than likely gone at the end of the season and there's not a whole lot we can do about it. What you can do is show up to the games, watch him on tv and interact with him on social media. Let him know how much he is loved and enjoy the show. Watch for his smile; cheer for him and the team; don't blame management or ownership because this is a business; players decide where they want to go and that's that. It sucks but it's life when you bring sports into it. You take interest in the players and think you know them and it hurts when they don't want to play for your team or management sends them somewhere else; but you know what happens? Someone replaces them on the field and in your heart and you cheer for them; until they leave and the cycle repeats itself.
That's a horrible way to end this post so to distract you: here's a dog jumping on a trampoline!