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.
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The one-year deal surpasses the previous arbitration record, which was set in 2017 by Bryce Harper's $21.625 million contract for the '18 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.
"Any great player is typically a complicated case," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "Elite players typically don't have [comparisons]. ... The discussions are in and around salary vs. raise. Similar types of performance. The same drivers. The platform of your performance, the bulk is career, and ultimately the consistency and time that they're active in doing it, is what drives these outcomes. We didn't, by any means, break the record, Josh did. Josh broke the record with his performance."
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.
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.
Despite the new deal, rumors surrounding Donaldson's future with the Blue Jays won't be going away any time soon. The Blue Jays continue to insist they do not have any intention of trading their star third baseman, but there also has not been any reported progress on long-term contract talks. That means Donaldson's name will continue to be mentioned through reports on a semi-regular basis, whether the Blue Jays like it or not.
"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."
Also on Friday, the Blue Jays agreed to terms and avoided arbitration with outfielder Kevin Pillar ($3.25 million), outfielder Ezequiel Carrera ($1.9 million), left-hander Aaron Loup ($1,812,500), right-hander Aaron Sanchez ($2.7 million), second baseman Devon Travis ($1.45 million) and right-hander Dominic Leone ($1.085 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 $1,162,500. 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 $1,812,500 this season after making $1.125 million last year.
The Blue Jays have two arbitration-eligible players remaining, Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna.