Monday, January 18, 2016

Tossed around like sea glass

There are plenty of “Josh Donaldson vs. The Blue Jays” takes floating around today, because it’s January and there isn’t much else to talk about. The sides are resolute in their tribalism as that is life in these streets.

The Jays look bad and the fans tilting at windmills look bad. Mark Shapiro looks predictably bad and Ken Rosenthal helps some in the Jays front office look foolish. Everybody looks bad for everyone except for Josh Donaldson, since “Josh Donaldson looks bad” is dividing by zero.

This started out as a take, it was going to be about the “cost of Josh Donaldson” and how this kind of arbitration strife is exactly what the Blue Jays signed up for when they acquired a Super Two with MVP credentials from a poor team.

The recently departed opinion piece had its moments, including a passage depicting an awkward negotiation in which “Shapiro and Atkins finally set their “GO INDIANS” foam fingers down, push back from the table and storm out of the room, offering only a terse “see you in court” on their way back to Ohio for the night.”

It was going to be a decent take. Tepid perhaps, but good all the same.

Instead I keep coming back to something I “discovered” when looking at exactly how much Josh Donaldson will cost the Blue Jays in real dollars over the next three-to-nine years. I kept coming back to this:

Mike Schmidt27-291958104.260.382.526.39414322.2
Josh Donaldson27-29207494.284.366.508.37714322.9

Looking back up at this little chart and then daydreaming while clicking through this link and one starts to think maybe the Blue Jays don’t just ride’em hard and put’em away wet. Hopefully they want to stay in the “extremely good player” business for longer than their years of control permit.

Josh Donaldson is going to be a free agent after his age-32 season. There is very little the Blue Jays can do to deter the man that famously noted “Imma get mine” from testing free agency. He only gets one shot at this potential pay day, nobody should delude themselves into believing he’ll take anything other than top dollar from a deep-pocketed suitor given the chance. The Blue Jays can and will count themselves among those to come calling.

There is no incentive for Donaldson to take even one penny less than he’s earned, and the Blue Jays better be damn happy to pay for the privilege. The system is set up such that Donaldson has next to no incentive to do anything other than go year by year and bet on his own ability to stay healthy enough to keep the record-breaking raises coming.

Paying $20 million for a non-free agent player is the cost of Donaldson, the cost of greatness and the cost of flags designed to fly forever. Having one of your best players poised to jump at the highest bidder is the cost, too.

I like that great player business more than the marginal surplus value business, because watching a great and well-compensated player is better than the alternative. The great player business costs plenty. It will cost a nine-digit amount of dollars in 2019. And it could well be worth it.

For now, we need not concern ourselves with contract skirmishes and instead focus on the benefit side of this cost/benefit equation. Josh Donaldson plays for the Blue Jays now and probably for the next three years, too. Hopefully into the next decade as well. It depends on the numbers - numbers much larger than $450 000, that’s for sure.


  1. what about injury risk? with 3 full years left prior to FA, he'd better be factoriing that into his current price.

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  2. Dave Cameron wrote this about Mike Trout when he signed his big deal, I think some of it applies to Donaldson, what with the baseline he already set.

    "his early career performance has essentially established a minimum payment that will make him very rich, and allow him to live comfortably for the rest of his life."

  3. The only thing going in Shatkins favour is that the next two Arb years will be platformed off of previous year's salary, so it could potentially be a few million dollars overall...not just this years 450K

    Still, it does look ridiculous, & in the grander scheme, probably costs more than it could potentially save. AA understood this aspect of the Game; splitting hairs (dollars) is both good & bad. The contrast is just so glaring. But we also have new departments focused more on Player Development, Mental Preperation, & emphasis on things like Nutrition & Player happiness,

    So it's tough to see right now which approach is better... And with the J.B. & E.E. negotiations upcoming, I kind of like the detached hair-splitting (with value approach) more than the emotional one.

    It's a tricky & delicate situation. My personal viewpoint would rather see E.E. re-signed than J.B. because he would likely cost less, & is more likable, in my opinion. The only concern would be how his back holds up. But in the last 3 years, he has offensively out-performed Bautista.

    In any case, I don't envy the position of the Jays front office (though I would gladly accept a position)

    1. ^although Players (in the Big Leagues) seemed to be pretty happy with A.A. at the helm

    2. Lol they were happy cuz they were winning.

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    4. Most Jays fans only started watching in Aug 15', so it is an honest mistake to assume the players were jump-a-round happy all the time because they had such a great GM.

    5. I disagree.. Although the '014 trade deadline was met with dis-gruntlement, I think the way AA handled players was always respected, by calling them first-hand if they were traded, always being straight up with them... that's what I meant. You never heard a peep about anything negative from a player about how the organization treated them, unless it was praise for how they were treated fairly & with respect, & liked being told straight up where they stood. And that includes almost all former players.

    6. And obviously I just started watching baseball at the trade deadline'15, because my insights into Arbitration, & the well-known fact that E.E. has been a superior offensive performer to J.B. the past 3 seasons (albeit by a small margin), as well as the finer points to front office management is such a casual thing to observe, right?

    7. Arbitrary endpoints can prove anything...over the past 3 seasons I'd agree EE has been the more productive offensive player, however if we look at just the past 2 seasons Jose has been more productive. Basically your point is valid only because in 2013 Edwin had a better year with the bat than Jose, in 2014 and 2015 that was not the case.


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