Blue Jays Mailbag: Can Toronto Lock Up Josh Donaldson Before Spring?
Plus, Andrew Stoeten discusses whether the front office's approach to acquiring talent works in the AL East, and why ownership won't go all in on the team.
Photo by Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports
December is almost over, and the Blue Jays—like most MLB teams this winter—have yet to make their big move. Is that big move coming? Might that big move be a Josh Donaldson extension? The sale of the team?
I have no idea! But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to tackle these questions, and many more, in this week’s edition of the ol’ Blue Jays mailbag! (Which, incidentally, will be the last one until the new year—have a good holiday season everyone!) So let’s do it!
And remember, if you have a Blue Jays question you'd like me to tackle two weeks from now, be sure to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I have not read any of Griff's answers.
What are the chances that a Donaldson extension gets done before spring training? Personally I’m optimistic, I would guess it’s at least 50/50, thoughts?
I think putting the odds at 50-50 is definitely optimistic. I’d love to believe otherwise, but nine figure contracts have never really been the Jays’ domain. Plus, they had the chance to offer early extensions to Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion at points where the club’s “championship window” certainly looked more open than it does now, and declined to do so.
Sure, every free agent situation is unique, and Donaldson is a better and younger player than both those guys were at one year out from free agency, and a better defender, too. But unless they add a couple more really significant win-now pieces this winter—which they seem to be aiming to do, though they’ve accomplished little on that front yet—I’m just not sure that I see it.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that they couldn’t still re-sign him in the middle of the season, or at the end of next year, or after he’s gotten a taste of free agency. He’s obviously a vitally important member of the team and losing him isn’t something the front office is going to go into lightly either, but yeah... maybe don’t get your hopes for an extension up quite so high.
Front office's depth-focused, waves of talent approach makes sense on paper, and I can see how it worked in the AL Central. But does it make sense in AL East?
Oh, I definitely think so. I think the Rays, for as long as they were able to hold everything together during the Andrew Friedman years, very much had the kind of approach that Mark Shapiro employed in Cleveland and that he and Ross Atkins are aiming to implement here.
I think the fact that Friedman exported many of those concepts to Los Angeles, where now he runs the Dodgers like the Rays, only with all the money in the world, speaks to how highly most of the industry values that approach. And in the AL East, I think the Yankees and the Red Sox are running a version of it, too—very, very moneyed versions of it, but versions nonetheless. Sure, the Yankees are the biggest of the big market clubs, and their acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton this winter says as much, but that’s a team with a very strong farm system, and a core of incredibly talented, incredibly cheap players—Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, etc.—who are really the pieces that make the whole thing work. Similarly, much of the Red Sox’s success of late can be boiled down to wringing such incredible value out of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, et al.
I’m not sure what other approach there is, at this point, really. You’re not going to outspend the Yankees and the Red Sox, so making the most of young, cheap talent, and keeping that kind of talent coming through the system sort of feels like the only way.
Why is Rogers afraid to go all in on the Blue Jays - the return on a massive investment in players would clearly be a net gain?
I’ll be up front that this stuff isn’t really my domain, but as far as I understand it, the short answer to this one was provided by David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail back in early 2016. “The profit or loss of any majority-owned asset such as the Blue Jays has to be included in Rogers' earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), which can directly affect the company's share price,” he explained. What that ends up meaning is that if the Jays run a big loss because they’ve hugely ramped up payroll in the hopes of creating a better, more profitable product down the line, it’s going to negatively impact the company’s share price—something that the suits at 1 Mount Pleasant are not terribly interested in doing, and probably aren’t going to be interested in doing anytime soon.
It’s for this reason that recent reports of the Jays being either sold, or spun out into an MLSE-like entity that would allow them to keep their books less public, is such an intriguing possibility—as a Reuters report this week explained:
The current corporate structure at Rogers treats the team as a fully consolidated business unit, meaning that boosting spending to acquire top players would cut into the parent company’s earnings, which are closely watched by investors.
Having flexibility to spend more on talent, without worry about missing Wall Street earnings forecasts, could lead to more on-field success, which would boost long-term revenue from ticket sales, merchandising and broadcast rights, the sources said.
And now some rapid-fire questions!
Which Cardinals prospect do you hope to acquire in the Donaldson trade?
You like Last Jedi?
I’m not much of a Star Wars fanboy, so yes.
If you could add one new menu item to the offerings at The Mothership, what would it be? I could go for a charcuterie tray.
That would be great, but I’d definitely lean toward something uniquely Toronto—say, a Burger’s Priest, Banh Mi Boys, or California Sandwiches.
Should the Jays consider taking Matt Kemp if the Dodgers include a top prospect?
Holy piss no!
Is JT Realmuto a luxury the Jays can't afford?
Are you disappointed with the quality of questions currently in the mailbag?
Not at all!
If the Yankees get Machado, what sport should I follow next season?
Who sees more playing time with the big league club next season: Roemon Fields, Dwight Smith Jr. or Jonathan Davis?
None of the above?
Alex Avila as backup catcher, yay or nay?
If he’s willing to take backup money, sure. But I don’t see that happening.