With the Blue Jays falling further and further out of contention, a rebuild could be in place. Could it start by sending the former MVP to St. Louis?
With the All-Star Break imminent and the trade deadline not too far beyond it, an increasing amount of teams are beginning to evaluate their situation with a bit less optimism, and larger doses of reality instead. One such team is the Toronto Blue Jays, who have been unable to steady the rocky waves that have surrounded them since a horrible start to the year.
Entering play on Wednesday, Toronto sits 10.5 games behind Boston in the American League East, and five games behind in the Wild Card. And while in the case of the Wild Card, that is not an insurmountable distance, time is running out for deciding whether it feels like the club can sustain itself for a late-season run. For a team with as many desirable trade chips as the Blue Jays, the lure of cashing out for a prospect rich return may be too tempting to ignore.
Despite recent comments from Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro that his club is not looking to sell in the upcoming weeks, outside interests could potentially compel him to reconsider that position. One such team could be the St. Louis Cardinals, as MLB.com columnist Jon Morosi reports that the club could have interest in Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson as the deadline approaches. This report expands on ideas that ESPN columnist Buster Olney reported earlier in the week, stating there is a widely increasing belief around the game that the Jays could be ‘big’ sellers by the July 31 deadline.
The Cardinals approach the deadline as a team in position to be greatly aided by an upgrade the caliber of Donaldson. Despite being three games south of .500 in early July, they are only 4.5 games behind Milwaukee in the lackluster National League Central. An acquisition the caliber of Donaldson would greatly improve their chances down the stretch, as the Cardinals offense has been unable to find consistency throughout the year. They currently are ninth in the NL in runs scored (377) and home runs (97) and eighth in on-base + slugging at .744.
This offensive dive follows a season where the club led the NL in home runs, with 225 and finished third in runs scored. However, after losing Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss during the offseason, and dealing first baseman Matt Adams to Atlanta earlier in the year, they have been unable to match last season’s production levels. Couple this with the pronounced struggles of Randal Grichuk and inconsistency from Stephen Piscotty and Matt Carpenter, the lineup has been a mess and is badly in need of shot in the arm.
Throughout it all, as a team the Cardinals have produced only a .218 average out of its number three spot in the lineup and have used seven different cleanup hitters as well.
In turn, Donaldson has struggled by his own lofty standards as well this season. An April calf injury kept him out of action for over a month, and he has hit only .221 since returning with six home runs. Yet despite this, Donaldson remains a highly-regarded player and one that has averaged 7.8 WAR over the past four years.
The price for Donaldson would be high, but not beyond what the Cardinals organization could potentially yield. Armed with a plethora of highly regarded arms, such as Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantera, as well as outfielder Harrison Bader and the minors top catching prospect in Carson Kelly, the Cardinals do have the type of prospect firepower that could bring Donaldson to town.
It is also worth noting the history between two of the shot callers in the front office of both clubs as well. Newly appointed Cardinals president of operations John Mozeliak and Shapiro both have a multi-year history of working deadline deals in the past, as Morosi highlights. And in years past, the two clubs have reached agreements some noteworthy deals, such as the one that sent Colby Rasmus to Toronto in exchange for Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson Marc Rzepczynski and Corey Patterson in 2011. Before that, Mozeliak sent a notable third baseman of his own –Scott Rolen— to the Jays in 2008 in exchange for Troy Glaus.
Can the two sides come to an agreement yet again? We’ll see. But the need for change is evident on both sides, and the peripherals certainly indicate that there could be a match made on both sides.