Josh Donaldson says first choice is to remain with Blue Jays

Josh Donaldson talks with reporters about wanting to be a Blue Jay for a long time and other teams being interested in him.

NEW YORK – About two or three weeks ago, Josh Donaldson told Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins that he wanted to talk. The superstar third baseman had some things on his mind and wanted to make sure he was able to get them off his chest, face-to-face.

“I let him know where I stand and where I stand is I want to be a Blue Jay,” Donaldson, who has one year of club control remaining, told Sportsnet. “I love Toronto, I love playing there. By the same token, I understand their side of it and both sides have got to match. My first choice as of right now is I want to be here. I enjoy the city, I enjoy this team, I enjoy the people that are around here, and I just let him know that. I wanted to be up-front before anything else came out there, or something like that. ‘Hey this is where I stand, I want you to know this.’

“There was no talk about a contract or any type of dollars. It was just my feelings and letting him know where my heart is at and ultimately we’ll see if anything can get worked out.”

Donaldson is arbitration-eligible for the final time before he can become a free agent after the 2018 season, and his future has been widely speculated on since last winter. Extending Donaldson, one of the game’s premier offensive players, will be expensive.

The Blue Jays have said they intend to take another run at the post-season with their current core which would preclude trading him away, but they risk letting him walk for only a compensatory draft pick afterwards.

Atkins said, “it’s so limited what I can tell you [about the meeting]. I can tell you I love Josh Donaldson as a player, he’s been a great teammate, really smart, interesting person, dynamic personality, he’s been great for this organization. As far as our personal discussions, it’s really limited what I can share. That’s my reaction.”

The meeting wasn’t intended to put any sort of pressure on the Blue Jays on an extension, Donaldson said, but rather demonstrate his commitment to the club ahead of speculation season. The rumour mill started early, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeting recently that the St. Louis Cardinals, long believed to have interest in the 2015 AL MVP, intended to pursue him this winter.

Donaldson said he emerged from the meeting with, “a good feeling.”

“Ross and I were able to communicate pretty well,” he continued. “I’m not going to sit here and push because I don’t feel like I need to push. I feel like I’ve proved myself and proved my worth to a team. I just wanted him to know that this is where I want to be. I got that point across.”

The uncertainty over Donaldson’s future comes after one franchise icon, Edwin Encarnacion, left via free agency last winter with another, Jose Bautista, expected to depart after this season. Bautista has a mutual $17 million option for next year that the Blue Jays will not exercise.

Should Donaldson depart after next year, that would make three face-of-the-franchise players lost in three years.

“I’m not concerned, this is a business,” said Donaldson. “You try to take your feelings and your emotions out of it when it comes to decisions like that. It’s difficult at times, especially when you feel like you’ve really done a lot for your team, as Edwin Encarnacion, as Jose Bautista have laid it on the line for this team for a long time. At the same time, I can only focus on the things I can control. I can’t control what they do, I can’t control what the team ultimately does. I can try to have a voice, I can try to make an impact on the field, but I can’t control everything. As a player you have to realize that. That’s why I wanted to have a meeting, not to control anything, but to say this is where I’m at, this is how I feel. You do with it what you want.”