Why the latest Josh Donaldson rumour is utterly nonsensical

Yahoo Canada Sports
The chances of the Toronto Blue Jays trading Josh Donaldson in the offseason are exceedingly low. (Gail Burton/AP)
The chances of the Toronto Blue Jays trading Josh Donaldson in the offseason are exceedingly low. (Gail Burton/AP)

With the Toronto Blue Jays playing out the string this season, it’s only natural that the attention of fans and media alike has shifted to 2018 and beyond to some degree.

For the most part that makes sense. Now is certainly the time to take stock of the team’s farm system, evaluate the September call-ups, and even consider what free agency has in store.

A less productive use of Blue Jays-related brain cells is to entertain foolish rumours. Rumours come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are well-reported, provide insight, and are worthy of our attention. The nugget that has circulated most prolifically through Blue Jays land in the last couple of days certainly is not.

On Thursday, at FanRag Sports, Jon Heyman began his column with the following line:

The Toronto Blue Jays won’t consider trading Josh Donaldson unless they could find a trade that improves them for the 2018 season, sources tell FanRag Sports.

This statement should not be dismissed as fiction. Heyman is exceedingly well-connected in the game, and his reporting is trustworthy. It should be dismissed, however, because it’s useless.

Saying the Blue Jays won’t consider trading Donaldson unless it improves them in 2018 is akin to saying that the 2015 MVP is unavailable in a deal except on February 31st. The report tries to create intrigue by laying out a scenario that is completely and utterly impossible as if it is a perfectly reasonable outcome.

The Blue Jays cannot trade Donaldson and improve in 2018. It quite simply cannot be done. Over the last five seasons there is only one player we can say with any kind of confidence has been more valuable than the third baseman and that’s Mike Trout. By FanGraphs, Clayton Kershaw’s WAR is 0.2 higher if you care to count him, too. Even though Donaldson hasn’t been at his best this year, he’s on a 4.9 WAR pace over a full season and most of his struggles are injury-driven. It’s hard to imagine a player projected for a stronger 2018.

Donaldson’s contract status also negates the possibility of a 2018 upgrade. Why would anyone trade a package that would be better than the third baseman next season when they’d only have Donaldson for that year? Front offices these days are a touch too smart to be in the business of trading for single-year downgrades.

There is only one kind of Donaldson deal that could conceivably work in the offseason. A trade would have to be brokered between the Blue Jays and a contending team looking to offer more future value in the form of young controllable players or prospects in exchange for the significant boost Donaldson could provide in 2018. Once again, that type of team couldn’t offer enough 2018 value in their package to equal or surpass Donaldson without totally defeating the purpose of making a trade.

If there’s anything to be taken from Heyman’s report it’s that the Blue Jays don’t seem interested in striking that kind of deal. They want to contend in 2018 and that contention is contingent on Donaldson’s presence on the team. The best way to convey this information would be to say the Blue Jays are not interested in trading Donaldson, but that’s not a good tidbit to build a column and headline around.

So, instead we’re left talking about a piece of information that hasn’t really taught us anything. Our default understanding was barring some massive change in philosophy Donaldson wasn’t going anywhere. This worldview has not been challenged.

Even Heyman comes to this conclusion in the third sentence of the story – after all the clicks have been had:

There has been a lot of speculation about a deal for Donaldson, and it’s possible Toronto could look at trades this winter, but the reality is that he will stay put.

If nothing else, maybe getting worked up about rumours that have little to offer now will mean that everyone’s in fine form to do the same come the offseason.

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