I have been a vocal supporter of the Toronto Blue Jays trading former league MVP Josh Donaldson, I will not deny that. However, over the past month I have been going through scenario after scenario, team after team trying to find a mix of talent to make the trade, course and trajectory of the team acquiring him, and need at position. I have come to the conclusion that a functional trade for both sides may not exist.
Any team that acquires Donaldson would be getting a dynamic, All-Star caliber player who is capable of leading a team on a post-season run, no doubt. The almost 32-year-old Donaldson, was a late-bloomer who never received a legitimate shot at the big leagues until age 27, so he doesn’t have the same wear-and-tear that many his age would have. He has had some injury issues this season for the first time in his career, but despite the missed time, nearly 40 games, is still on pace to put up a WAR of over 4.
The issues become stacked against a deal when you factor in position, and the fact that he would be going to a contending team. Let’s run down a few teams that would fit the profile for a Donaldson deal and who they currently have at 3rd:
Angels: Luis Valbuena
Astros: Alex Bregman
Brewers: Travis Shaw
Cardinals: Matt Carpenter
Cubs: Kris Bryant
DBacks: Jake Lamb
Dodgers: Justin Turner
Mariners: Kyle Seager
Nationals: Anthony Rendon
Orioles: Manny Machado
Red Sox: Rafael Devers
Rockies: Nolan Arenado
So now from that list how many are suitable just in terms of basic need? Angels, Indians, Yankees and maybe with positional switches in house the Brewers and Cardinals as well. Quickly, we are down to 5 teams. The next factor is the fact that a player like Donaldson would bring back a prospect and young MLB talent haul, so to speak. So lets go team-by-team and break down the best young trade assets that fir the Toronto Blue Jays needs/wants:
Angels: With potentially the worst Minor League system in all of baseball the likelihood the Angels would be able to put together a package of young talent for Donaldson would be nearly impossible frankly. Their top MiLB talent consists of OF Jo Adell (Rookie), and OF Jahmai Jones (A/A+) beyond that their system is more-or-less fodder. At the Major league level Garrett Richards could be intriguing but he is 29 coming off of a major Injury. Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, and Parker Bridwell, a trio of 26 year olds all have substantial warts. Lets rule out the Angels all together.
Indians: The Indian have the potential to be a very interesting trade partner. Between Toronto’s front office ties to that organization, the depth of young talent in their system, and a need at 3rd they appear to fit. Their top MiLB talent are C Francisco Mejia (#14 overall, AA), RHP Triston McKenzie (#21 overall, A+) and 1B Bobby Bradley (AA). 3 very interesting pieces, all of which could be very close to being big league ready, and Mejia and McKenzie has All-Star potential. At the big league level they have a few interesting pieces as well, in RHP Danny Salazar, RHP Mike Clevinger, OF Greg Allen, and LHP Ryan Merritt, who I am sure Blue Jays fans remember. The difficulty becomes, is it truly a position of need for the Indians when Jason Kipnis comes back and Ramirez slides to 3rd? Would Kipnis be a piece in a potential trade even? Lots of questions but surely the Indians fit as a destination.
Yankees: The New York Yankees have wonderful system, and a contending team on the field as well. They have a great mix of young and mature talent and the threat of impending Donaldson free-agency wouldn’t scare them off at all. Torreyes, Frazier, Headley are fine but hardly deal breakers at the position, so the fit seems solid. They are a divisional rival, which would bother some I do not care however. Their Top MiLB talent included super-prospect INF Gleyber Torres (#2 overall, AAA), OF Clint Frazier (#24 overall, AAA/MLB), RHP Chance Adams (#57 overall, AAA), OF Estevan Florial (#84 overall, A+), LHP Justus Sheffield (#86 overall, AA), 3B Miguel Andujar (#98 overall, AAA), Flame-throwing RHP Domingo Acevado (AA/AAA), as well as numerous other high talent Low-Minor league guys. They also don’t lack interesting pieces at the big league level with 1B Greg Bird, UTL Tyler Wade, and primarily LHP Jordan Montgomery. The Yankees are primed to make a deal for a player like Josh Donaldson, the question is are they Blue Jays willing to trade him within the division?
Cardinals: The Cardinals were rumored mid-season to have had preliminary conversations about Josh Donaldson. They have a need for a dynamic bat and they have some very interesting pieces but many of those pieces have significant question marks. Are Randall Grichuk and Kolten Wong everyday players at the MLB Level? Can Michael Wacha become a front-end starter, or is he destined to become a late-game stopper? Would they be willing to deal catcher-of-the-future Carson Kelly with Yadier Molina on the roster? Do they have the pitching depth to include arm-talent like Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, or the exceptional but damaged Alex Reyes? Seems like a lot of question marks on a possible deal. Beyond those named already the Cardinals do have some interesting MiLB talent in OF Tyler O’neil (#94 Overall, AAA), OF Harrison Bader (#96 overall, AAA/MLB), and OF Magneuris Sierra (AA/MLB). Unless they were willing to put together a huge pitching deal including the like of Weaver, Flaherty and one of the OF prospects, it’s hard to see the deal getting done, and the Cards giving up those players would probably decimate their chances of contending from a pitching stand-point.
Brewers: Travis Shaw has had an amazing year, no question, but a deal for Josh Donaldson is not stopped by making someone shift positions to aquire him. The Brewers also have a nice system and some intriguing MLB talent that could be tradeable in a deal, possibly Shaw or Thames included in that intrigue. With Donaldson on the verge of free-agency however, my thought would be that the Brewers wouldn’t want to get into the rental game, for the amount of capital a deal would cost them. Their top MiLB talent includes OF Lewis Brinson (#13 overall, AAA/MLB), OF Corey Ray (#63 overall, A+), RHP Luis Ortiz (#75 overall, AA), RHP Brandon Woodruff (#87 overall, AAA/MLB), DH/2B Keston Hiura (#88 overall, A), INF Isan Diaz (#92 overall, A+) and RHP Corbin Burnes (AA). That’s a lot of potential talent that fits the Blue Jays organizational needs. The Brewers and Yankees are the 2 teams that can put together a large enticing package without gutting the teams future. But will the money game around Donaldson scare them off as a suitor?
Based off of every factor I can see, the only teams that makes sense for a Josh Donaldson trade for both sides seems to be the New York Yankees or the Cleveland Indians. The question is, what potential issues does Blue Jays management have with dealing a star-player to these 2 teams in particular. Only time will tell, but unfortunately it seems the Blue Jays don’t have as many potential avenues as many fans and media seem to think.