Tuesday, February 9, 2016 | by Ian Hunter
Josh Donaldson was already going to be a Blue Jay for three more seasons; that much was certain. What wasn't certain is the dollar figure of those final three years of control.
Now, we at least have the number for the first two years. It's a means to an ends, but the Blue Jays finalized a two-year contract with Josh Donaldson; avoiding arbitration and they'll pay him $29 million over the next two seasons.
This is a tremendous deal for both sides; at the very least, Donaldson was already going to fetch $11.35 million dollars in 2016 anyway, and barring a freak occurrence this year or a Ricky Romero-sized regression, Josh Donaldson would receive another hefty raise ahead of the 2017 season as well.
Donaldson may not have been awarded $17 or $18 million in arbitration next year, but that's the Blue Jays paying a little bit more up front to lock up the reigning MVP.
This deal is huge for the Blue Jays because it also provides cost certainty for not only this year, but next year as well. No longer must they earmark a giant bag of money for Donaldson next season in case he has another MVP-calibre performance.
Josh Donaldson also wins with this deal because regardless of what happens this year, he'll be paid handsomely in 2017; so there's some certainly from his perspective and it provides him a bit of an insurance policy.
Not only that, but Donaldson doesn't have to go through arbitration. He went to arb with the Blue Jays last year, so he's no stranger to this process; but if one can avoid taking their MVP to a hearing, the better it is for everyone involved.
To me, this also bodes well for any potential contract negotiations with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. With all the big salaries accounted for, now the Blue Jays can determine whether they have any wiggle room whatsoever to keep either Jose, Edwin, or in many-a-Jays-fan's fantasy world ... both.
Ideally, the Blue Jays would've liked to buy out at least one of Josh Donaldson's free agency years. But the more I think about it, this is a very strategic and smart approach by the Blue Jays by leaving one final year of team control open.
Not only do the Blue Jays lock in Donaldson at a fairly reasonable rate, but this also re-opens the door for another potential contract extension ahead of the 2017 season. As much as we want to believe Donaldson will be an MVP-calibre player for at least the next two years, this allows the Jays to get a little more intel on Donaldson prior to another potential contract extension.
To be frank, I'm a little surprised that Josh Donaldson agreed to this contract. If he has anything remotely close to his 2015 MVP season, Donaldson could take the Blue Jays to the cleaners in arbitration the next two years.
Donaldson was going to receive every single dime owed to him and he was clearly prepared to go to salary arbitration to rightfully get paid. So the fact that Josh Donaldson opted to potentially take a little less guaranteed money is somewhat shocking.
But Josh Donaldson really is a unique case; he's a late bloomer, just finally coming into his own entering his age 31 season. Donaldson could be a free agent by age 33.
To put that in perspective, by the time Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are 33 years old, they'll have 15 big league seasons under their belt. Josh Donaldson will only have played 8 seasons by the time he's 33 and eligible for free agency.
With that in mind, you can understand the trepidation on the part of the Blue Jays' front office when it comes to locking up Josh Donaldson beyond his arbitration-eligible years. What's the point of taking on that unnecessary risk if they don't need to?
At the very least, the Bringer of Rain is here to stay in Toronto for three more years, and for the next two, the Blue Jays know exactly how much they'll need to pay the reigning American League MVP. And then beyond that, the Jays still have Donaldson under team control for one more season.
That now leaves Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin under contract for the foreseeable future. Now it's time to hammer out those negotiations with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
With one big contract down, now the Blue Jays only have two more to go.
Image via Yahoo Sports
Thursday, February 4, 2016 | by Ian Hunter
2016 is going to be a tough act to follow for the Toronto Blue Jays ... in more ways than one.
Not only does the team have an uphill battle to repeat as American League East Champions, but thanks in part to a magical postseason run, the new heads of the Blue Jays' front office have to follow a pair of newly-minted legends in Toronto: Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos.
The Blue Jays' State of the Franchise is no longer and it has now made way for "The Leadoff"; essentially the same thing, but with a different title and now Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins at the helm of this season ticket holder forum.
Every year, you can kind of get the sense of what topics will be broached at these events. Here are my best guesses as to what will be the big topics covered at "The Leadoff".
What's the Status on the Grass Field?
Should it come as any surprise that the Blue Jays announced an all-dirt infield for the Rogers Centre the day prior to the season ticket holder event? This was an initiative that's been in discussion for quite some time, but now it's finally official.
While a grass field is the ultimate goal here, I think the all-dirt infield is a good compromise for the time being, and I expect Mark Shapiro to echo the same sentiments. There will be questions about the feasibility of the grass, and Shapiro will do his best to give some general answers.
The Blue Jays probably don't want to come outright and say this, but my sense is that this grass thing is much, much more difficult than anybody expected. They likely discovered some things when they did the initial assessment to install the dirt infield, and now it's time to go back to the drawing board.
Ideally, everybody wants to have a grass field at the Rogers Centre; the players, the fans ... it can only improve upon the overall ballpark experience for everyone. But this whole grass field thing was Paul Beeston's baby. And with Beeston gone, Shapiro isn't obligated to carry on the vision of the previous president.
With a one-year old turf in place and soon to be an all-dirt infield, I feel like the whole grass issue is far less of a priority at this point. The initial projection to have grass installed by 2018 may be completely out the window now, but the new turf and all-dirt infield are acceptable concessions in the meantime.
What's the Future of Bautista & Encarnacion?
While the dirt infield and prospect of a grass field is the most topical, it's not the largest issue surrounding the Blue Jays in the short term. This is - the future of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in respect to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ross Atkins will probably take the reins on any questions related to Jose and Edwin, and I'm interested to see what Atkins has to say. After all, he met with both of the Jays' impending free agent sluggers over the past few weeks, and maybe Mr. Atkins can provide a little more insight as to where Bautista and Encarnacion's heads are at right now.
Unless the Blue Jays' payroll increases substantially next season, they'll likely have to choose to retain one of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. And even then, there's no guarantee either of these guys come back after 2016.
So the better question for Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins might be "do you foresee the payroll increasing next year to help retain the faces of your franchise"? Because asking the Jose or Edwin question might not gain very much traction.
Will Aaron Sanchez be a Starter?
Much like the grass field question, this one creeps up practically every year at the Blue Jays' season ticket holder event. John Gibbons has already made it known that he wants to stretch Sanchez out as a starter, but I'm curious as to what GM Ross Atkins thinks.
Starting pitching depth doesn't seem like a concern for the Blue Jays right now, and clearly they have more than the necessary five starters. So does that means shipping one of Aaron Sanchez or Drew Hutchison down to Buffalo to begin the season?
Does that mean Jesse Chavez becomes the long man in the bullpen right off the hop? Or are there other plans entirely for the starting rotation? Whatever the Blue Jays decide to do, Aaron Sanchez will be at the centre of it all.
Now that we've had months to speculate, the Blue Jays need to give Aaron Sanchez every opportunity to start, because that's where his value truly lies. If he has a poor Spring Training performance, as great as it would be to have him in the bullpen, I feel like he'd be wasted in that capacity.
Bullpen guys can be a dime a dozen; but Aaron Sanchez' true value lies in becoming a consistent starter for the Blue Jays. And it would be reassuring to hear the organization's commitment to keeping him in that role for the foreseeable future.
What are the Renovation Plans for the Rogers Centre?
Sometimes, it's easy to forget that the Rogers Centre is the seventh oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. On other occasions, its age is very apparent; but strides have been made the past few years to revamp the Rogers Centre.
One of the things Mark Shapiro was heralded for during his time in Cleveland was the substantial renovations to Progressive Field. Shapiro and company gave the park a huge facelift, and surely he'll be looking to replicate that formula in Toronto.
I'm particularly interested to hear what Shapiro's short term vision is for the Rogers Centre, not the long term. Because in the long term, the Blue Jays ideally won't be playing in that stadium anymore.
Until a brand new stadium is constructed to house the Blue Jays, Mark Shapiro can illustrate how the Rogers Centre can be improved in the interim. This can be in the form of smaller renovations, stadium additions and in-game elements around the ballpark.
Several of these small things have been hinted at in recent months (replacing the seats, statues of former players outside the stadium, revamping the concessions). Depending on the scale of these initiatives, some of them could take years to execute.
What I'm interested in hearing is how Mark Shapiro plans in improving the ballpark experience as soon as this upcoming 2016 season. Even though the atmosphere was incredible inside the stadium last October, it could always be better.
Image via Getty Images Sport/Tom Szczerbowski
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 | by Ian Hunter
How do most people kill time waiting for their flight at the airport? A number of medial things to pass the time. But Josh Donaldson is not most people; he's Josh Donaldson.
The Bringer of Rain chose to pass the time by answering the internet's most burning questions about him, the Blue Jays and a bunch of other random things. After the jump, some of Donaldson's best responses from his impromptu Twitter AMA.