Blue Jays trade Donaldson to Indians

September 1st, 2018

TORONTO -- The Josh Donaldson era in Toronto came to an end on Friday night when the Blue Jays traded the former American League MVP to the Indians for a player to be named later.

The Blue Jays needed to trade Donaldson by Friday night at 11:59 p.m. ET in order for the 32-year-old to have postseason eligibility. He cleared waivers Friday afternoon, at least in part because of the approximately $4 million remaining on his 2018 salary, which permitted the Blue Jays to trade Donaldson to any team.

According to MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal, the Blue Jays picked up $2.7 million of the remaining value on his contract to help facilitate the deal.

"I love the guy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We had our battles, but you know, he has a big heart and he's a special baseball player. That's a good spot for him.

"He's like a stallion. He's a race horse. He's high strung. That's the way he approached the game. But he did a lot for us here, and I wish him the best."

Because he was traded, Donaldson will no longer be eligible to receive a Qualifying Offer this offseason. He will be an unrestricted free agent, meaning that the club that signs him will not need to forfeit a future Draft pick and the Indians won't receive any picks as compensation if they lose him.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins has yet to publicly discuss the deal. He is expected to speak to with the media during a conference call at some point on Saturday.

In Cleveland, Donaldson will be reunited with former teammate as the Indians gear up for another postseason run. Blue Jays fans won't have to wait long for Donaldson's return as Cleveland is set to visit Rogers Centre from Sept. 6-9.

"If that happens, he's a great player, man," Encarnacion told the Cleveland media on Friday night. "He's a great player. We'll see ... I think if that happens, everybody is going to be excited ... He's a great guy, he's a great guy." 

Donaldson was originally acquired by former Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos in a 2014 deal that turned into one of the best in franchise history. Anthopoulos nabbed Donaldson before his MVP season in exchange for Brett Lawrie, , and .

With Donaldson as the centerpiece, Toronto scored 127 more runs than any other team in 2015 and snapped a 22-year postseason drought by claiming the AL East title. The Blue Jays were eliminated by the Royals in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series, but Donaldson took home MVP honors at the end of the year after he slashed .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers and 123 RBIs.

The Florida native enjoyed a repeat performance the following season, when he posted a .953 OPS while slugging 37 homers with 99 RBIs as the Blue Jays made a second consecutive appearance in the ALCS. It also marked the fourth consecutive season that Donaldson appeared in at least 155 games, which seemed to prove his overall durability.

"I think he meant a lot," Blue Jays first baseman said. "[The] first years he was here, we went to the American League Championship Series. He's a great teammate, a great player. We'll see what happens, but I'm sure I'll talk to him here today or tomorrow. I wish him nothing but the best."

The string of good health came to an end in 2017, when Donaldson hit the disabled list for the first time in his career and was limited to 113 games because of a calf injury. A similar issue resurfaced this season, and he has been out since May 28 with what the club called a left calf strain.

During the ensuing weeks and months, it became apparent a rift had formed between the two sides. Reports circulated for weeks that the Blue Jays were very motivated to deal Donaldson before the end of the month. The underlying point was that Toronto's front office wanted no part of an approximately $18 million Qualifying Offer for 2019.

Donaldson alluded to the potential conflict during an interview with the Toronto Sun following Thursday's rehab game in Dunedin. When asked about his relationship with the Blue Jays' front office, Donaldson told the Sun, "There's a lot I can say about that, but I choose not to say anything about it right now. I don't feel now is the time or the place."

There might have been conflict between Donaldson and the front office, but some of his teammates went to bat for him after Toronto's 6-5 victory over the Marlins on Friday night.

"I have nothing but good things to say about Josh," right-hander Aaron Sanchez said. "Believe it or not, Josh helped me incrementally in my career by just talking to me. Nothing but respect for JD. Obviously, he brought a lot to this team the years he was here. He put us on his back in 2015, when he was the MVP, and took us to the promised land.

"He understood what it took to win ballgames and what it took to get to that next level in terms of playing for a real season in October. I know everybody here wishes him well, and obviously, we want to beat Cleveland when they come into town next week, but hats off to them. They got a great player. He loved to shine in the big moments, so he's right in his habitat."

The Blue Jays likely will use a combination of , and the currently injured at third base for the rest of the season before eventually handing the reins to top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. early next year.

Donaldson finishes his time in Toronto with a .281/.383/.548 slash line across parts of four seasons. He represented the Blue Jays at two All-Star Games, and he is second to only first baseman Carlos Delgado for the highest OPS (.931) in franchise history among qualified hitters.