While the dominos continue to fall and the Blue Jays are clearly in search of upgrades for their bullpen, it’s time to pull the curtain back a bit and look at the longevity of this offense.
The reigning Most Valuable Player, Josh Donaldson, needs to be extended. He made $4.3 million after losing an arbitration hearing in 2015, and will be looking at $12-to-$15 million in salary arbitration for the upcoming season. He is due for a healthy raise.
Now, the club has an option of extending his contract instead of going through with the arbitration meeting. It’s time to realize who they have in the blue uniform and to keep him in Toronto for the rest of his career.
The Blue Jays have forked out big money before, to lesser talent. Vernon Wells, albeit an outfielder, was given a seven-year, $126 million dollar extension in 2006. The last thing Blue Jays fans want is for Donaldson to face arbitration for the next three years, then walk away in 2019. Which, in my opinion, is highly doubtful.
New president Mark Shapiro has been known to sign off on long-term deals in the past while he was still in Cleveland. He was there for the six-year deal to Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis, he was also there while the Indians inked Corey Kluber to a five-year plan. It’s not an improbable thing to think that this front office can get a deal done, much earlier than expected.
Third base is a position where it’s difficult to proceed with mediocrity. It’s called the hot corner for a reason. Not only are you responsible for being a shutdown defender with the glove in your hand, but you are also a superior hitter, slotted third or fourth in the daily lineup. A great third baseman is a rare commodity, which is all the reason why it’s imperative to keep number 20 around for the long term if the Blue Jays want to continue their success. A handful of clubs around Major League Baseball intelligently work by this philosophy.
If you look around the league at other elite third basemen that are linked to long-term deals, we can get a better idea as to what Ross Atkins and company are working with, and why the position is of utmost importance to a successful major league roster.
It starts within the division. Evan Longoria is signed with the Tampa Bay Rays through 2022. His contract is an extremely team-friendly 15-year, $144 million dollar deal.
Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers signed a six-year deal with the Rangers through his prime, and at the same age as Donaldson is now. His deal is worth $96 million dollars. His contract has a minor back-load, with him making the most of his salary in 2016.
Utility man, Matt Carpenter, of St.Louis is two seasons into his six-year contract worth $52 million dollars. His deal is also back-loaded, with him making $18.5 million in 2020.
If Pablo Sandoval can ink a five-year contract with the Boston Red Sox worth $95 million, then the most productive third baseman in the league should be able to get his payday.
Mark Shapiro said it himself. The projected payroll for the upcoming season and the next several years is based on how successful the team is and how much revenue they generate. Judging by last year’s accomplishments, the already steep payroll has to receive some kind of boost from multiple sellout games during the 2015 season and postseason.
Donaldson may have peaked late at 30-years-old, but the Blue Jays have to think long and hard about locking him up for the rest of his career. If Toronto is looking for stability at third base and at the heart of their order for years to come, it starts with Donaldson. The window is closing, especially with Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista becoming free agents at the end of next year.