Toronto, Donaldson agree on record $23M deal


TORONTO — Josh Donaldson did not get the long-term deal he was hoping for — at least not yet — but a record-setting pre-arbitration settlement should come as a pretty good consolation prize.

Donaldson and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration on Friday morning by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $23 million (all figures in U.S. dollars). The deal came just a couple of hours before Friday’s 1 p.m. ET deadline for teams and players to exchange figures in preparation of the arbitration process.

TORONTO — Josh Donaldson did not get the long-term deal he was hoping for — at least not yet — but a record-setting pre-arbitration settlement should come as a pretty good consolation prize.

Donaldson and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration on Friday morning by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $23 million (all figures in U.S. dollars). The deal came just a couple of hours before Friday’s 1 p.m. ET deadline for teams and players to exchange figures in preparation of the arbitration process.

The one-year deal surpasses the previous arbitration record, which was set in 2017 by Bryce Harper‘s $21.625 million contract for the 2018 season. Donaldson previously expressed a desire to explore a long-term deal, but there have yet to be any indications that the two sides ever got close. He remains eligible for free agency at the end of the year.

Video: Donaldson, Blue Jays strike deal to avoid arbitration

“It’s a compliment that there are other teams who feel like their team would be better with me on it, and I tend to agree with them,” Donaldson told MLB Network Friday morning when asked about the frequent trade rumors. “The fact of the matter is that I really enjoy where I’m at right now.

“I enjoy being a Toronto Blue Jay. I enjoy what we’ve been able to build in this organization. I could be OK if this is where I spend the rest of my career. I could also be OK if they decide to move on. Those aren’t my decisions.”

Toronto went through arbitration with Donaldson in 2015, and it’s a process the club did not want to repeat. The Blue Jays will now avoid the awkward process of trying to argue in a hearing why Donaldson should be paid a lower amount and can instead shift their attention to their remaining offseason needs.

Video: TOR@BOS: Donaldson belts second homer of the night

Donaldson is coming off a year in which he hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and 78 RBIs. He was one of the best players in baseball over the final two months, but prior to that, he struggled through a disappointing first half that included calf and hip issues. It was the first time in four years that he did not finish in the top 10 in voting for the American League MVP Award, which he won in 2015.

Toronto is considered a file-and-trial team when it comes to arbitration. Once salary figures are exchanged, the club is adamant about taking the player through the process. That strategy is intended to put some pressure on the player and his agent to sign a deal and avoid the potentially confrontational hearing. Exceptions to the rule are made for multiyear deals.

“I think almost every team is file-and-trial now,” Donaldson said. “So once you file numbers, you’re going to a trial unless a multiyear is done. With that said, there weren’t a lot of teams who were that way [before]. Normally there was a filing process, and after the filing process, teams negotiated after that. I think it’s just the way that the ownership in baseball is going. They understand arbitration and they understand how fickle the situation is. I think they’re willing to let it ride on some players, when before that wasn’t the case.”

Video: TOR@BOS: Donaldson hits a pair of homers off Sale

Donaldson is expected to become one of the top free agents available at the end of the year. It’s a crowded free-agent class, but it’s also shaping up to be one of the best groups that baseball has seen in recent memory. Manny Machado, Harper, Clayton Kershaw, potentially David Price, Andrew Miller and Charlie Blackmon are poised to hit the market.

Also on Friday, the Blue Jays agreed to terms and avoided arbitration with outfielder Kevin Pillar ($3,250,000 million), outfielder Ezequiel Carrera ($1.9 million), left-hander Aaron Loup ($1,812,500 million), right-hander Aaron Sanchez ($2,700,000 million), second baseman Devon Travis ($1.45 million) and right-hander Dominic Leone ($1,085,000 million) on contracts for the 2018 season.

Carrera, 30, batted .282/.356/.408 with eight homers and 10 steals in 131 games for Toronto last season while earning $1.1625 million. He’ll receive a bump in salary this year to $1.9 million.

Loup, also 30, went 2-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 70 appearances for the Blue Jays in 2017. He’ll earn $1.8125 million this season after making $1.125 million last year.

The Blue Jays have two arbitration-eligible players remaining, Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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