Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins didn’t see a problem giving all-star third baseman Josh Donaldson a hefty raise for the upcoming season.
Donaldson and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration Friday by agreeing on a US$23 million, one-year contact — the largest one-year deal for an arbitration-eligible player.
“We didn’t by any means break the record, Josh did. Josh broke the record with his performance and quite frankly blew it out of the water,” Atkins said on a conference call. “We knew that was going to happen. It was just a matter of how much and if we could align in value and we’re very pleased that we did.”
The contract gives Donaldson a $6 million raise while also making the 2015 AL MVP the highest paid player on the Jays’ roster.
Donaldson rebounded from an injury-slowed 2016 to hit .270 last season with 33 homers and 78 runs batted in over 113 games. The sure-handed infielder missed time from April 14 through May 25 with a calf injury, which also hampered him during spring training.
He was coming off a $28.65 million, two-year deal and is eligible for free agency after this season.
Atkins wouldn’t get into details about the potential of a long-term contract with the 32-year-old Donaldson but did say that Friday’s deal could help in future negotiations.
“I definitely don’t think it hurts us,” Atkins said. “Everything in any relationship and any negotiation, when you do agree on something is certainly a positive. There’s always a lot that goes into a negotiation so I would say it definitely doesn’t hurt.”
Donaldson has a .285 batting average with 111 home runs and 300 RBIs over three seasons in Toronto.
“Josh is huge component to our team and to our success — what he brings not only on the baseball field, but in the clubhouse,” Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez told reporters before an event at a school in Burnaby, B.C., as part of the club’s winter tour. “Great dude to be around, great leader.”
Sanchez also avoided arbitration, signing a one-year deal worth $2.7 million.
“I let my people handle it. I wasn’t really in a lot of the talks, but definitely I’m happy.”
The Blue Jays also agreed to one-year deals with outfielder Kevin Pillar ($3.25 million), second baseman Devon Travis ($1.45 million), right-hander Dominic Leone ($1.085 million), outfielder Ezequiel Carrera ($1.9 million) and left-hander Aaron Loup ($1.8 million)
Two key parts of the Jays’ pitching staff that were eligible for arbitration, closer Roberto Osuna and starter Marcus Stroman, remain unsigned.
Stroman, who won a career-high 13 games in 2017 while boasting a 3.09 ERA, required an arbitration hearing last year before securing a $3.4 million salary.
“It’s just a part of the process,” Atkins said of taking Stroman to arbitration in back-to-back years. “The industry has seen that more and more teams are willing to go and agencies are more willing to go. … If the numbers don’t line up that’s what the hearing is built in for.”
While the Blue Jays have been relatively quiet this off-season, aside from acquiring infielder Yangervis Solarte in a trade with San Diego last week, Atkins said the team is still in a good position to add where it needs to.
“We definitely still have flexibility and we definitely have room to make moves whether that be via free agency or trade and I feel like we’re in a good position to make our team better,” Atkins said. “Where that ends, we’ll see.”
— With files from Joshua Clipperton in Burnaby