Should a Contending Team Take a Flier on Josh Donaldson?

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As the trade deadline looms at the end of July, teams are beginning to fall in to the “buyer” or “seller” categories. With time at a premium, the Toronto Blue Jays currently sit in fourth place in the loaded American League East at 37-43 (as of June 28). A sub-.500 record with almost no playoff hopes should make the Blue Jays a seller at the deadline, with left-handed starter J.A. Happ the hottest commodity. One almost forgotten and undervalued is former MVP third baseman Josh Donaldson.

Donaldson is currently on the 10-day disabled list with a calf injury, last appearing in a major league game on May 28, and his rehab recently had a setback. Donaldson has fallen on tough times recently, struggling to a .234/.333/.423 slash line through 36 games in 2018. Still, if his power production returns to its 2013-17 form when he averaged just under 33 home runs per season, Donaldson could provide a huge upgrade for a contending lineup.

Through his 36 games this season, Donaldson has struggled mightily, striking out in 27.7 percent of his plate appearances. Despite that, when he has made contact, Donaldson has succeeded, with a .303 BABIP, which would be third-best in his career. Obviously, these numbers are likely skewed due to his cranky calf, which first surfaced in 2017, and a right shoulder injury at the beginning of this season. Assuming he returns healthy before the deadline, Donaldson, along with Mike Moustakas and Adrian Beltre, would headline the corner infielder market in July.

The Philadelphia Phillies are likely to be the most aggressive for a third baseman come July, as they push for their first postseason appearance since 2011. If they are willing to take a chance on Donaldson, the package required to obtain his services would be reduced because of the injury history. The Phillies could land Donaldson and still hold on to their top ten prospects, instead parting with a couple of lower-level high-upside prospects, such as 17-year-old shortstop Luis Garcia (#24 prospect in system, according to MLB.com).

Donaldson, if healthy, could provide needed protection to a Philadelphia lineup, and would be a favorable consolation prize for the contender that missed out on Moustakas and Beltre. If healthy soon, 20 home runs are not out of the question.

The potential reward is clear; the question remains whether a contending team thinks it is worth the risk.

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