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Donaldson's future a key Hot Stove question

Star third baseman eligible for free agency after next season
October 27, 2017

TORONTO -- For the first time in three years, the Blue Jays had to watch October baseball from afar. Now, they have some work to do to make sure it doesn't happen again in 2018.With the World Series out of the way, Major League Baseball's Hot Stove season is about

TORONTO -- For the first time in three years, the Blue Jays had to watch October baseball from afar. Now, they have some work to do to make sure it doesn't happen again in 2018.
With the World Series out of the way, Major League Baseball's Hot Stove season is about to kick into high gear. Toronto needs to be active as it seeks to upgrade an offense that scored the fewest runs in the American League, while at the same time finding another piece for the starting rotation.
There's a glaring hole in the outfield and an important decision to make on Josh Donaldson, who is arbitration-eligible for the final time this offseason. This will be a busy couple of months for Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins and the rest of his front-office staff.
Free agents: OF Jose Bautista, LHP Brett Anderson, IF Darwin Barney, C Miguel Montero.
Arbitration-eligible: 3B Donaldson, RHP Tom Koehler, RHP Marcus Stroman, OF Ezequiel Carrera, LHP Aaron Loup, OF Kevin Pillar, RHP Roberto Osuna, IF Ryan Goins, 2B Devon Travis, RHP Aaron Sanchez.
What will happen with Donaldson?
Donaldson is one year away from free agency, and he is on record saying he would be willing to negotiate a long-term extension this offseason. Finding terms that work for both sides will be a lot easier said than done, but either way, Donaldson is expected to stay put for now. Toronto has all but officially ruled out a trade and instead will look to retool the team around one of the league's top hitters. Arbitration looms, and both parties will want to avoid that after previously going to a hearing in 2015. The question here is whether contract negotiations will ever get serious or what happens if another team offers the Blue Jays something they simply cannot refuse.

Who will replace Bautista in right field?
Atkins informed Bautista in September that his 2018 option would not be picked up. The veteran slugger instead will become a free agent, while the Blue Jays look elsewhere for his replacement. Teoscar Hernandez turned some heads with eight home runs in September, but it still seems unlikely that he'll be handed the job. Expect Toronto to add someone from outside the organization, while Hernandez, Anthony Alford and Steve Pearce compete in left. One free-agent possibility is Jay Bruce, who has been frequently linked to the Blue Jays over the past two years. Other options include Carlos Gonzalez, J.D. Martinez, Jayson Werth and Lorenzo Cain.
How much can Travis be relied upon in 2018?
When healthy, Travis has been one of Toronto's most productive hitters and an ideal fit in a lineup that lacks speed and athleticism. The problem is Travis has yet to play a full season, and he's rehabbing from yet another knee surgery. Ideally, Travis will once again become the everyday second baseman, but the Blue Jays will need to protect against another injury by adding more depth up the middle. Signing Eduardo Nunez or trading for Jed Lowrie would make a lot of sense, and other available players include J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and John Forsythe.

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