The St. Louis Cardinals will miss the playoffs this year, but with a talented core of players they’re poised to contend again in 2018. Their chances of returning to the post-season would improve if they could acquire a middle-of-the-order bat, and to that end they’re expected to “strongly pursue” Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson this winter, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
It’s hardly surprising to see Donaldson in trade rumours as he enters his final year of arbitration eligibility, but interest from other teams doesn’t mean the Blue Jays will actually trade the 31-year-old. He’s Toronto’s best player and his presence on the roster makes the club’s publicly stated goal of contending in 2018 seem much more realistic.
Donaldson missed time early in the season because of a calf injury, but he has recovered from a slow start and now has 33 home runs with a .272/.389/.564 batting line. Those stats set him up for a substantial raise from his current salary of $17 million in 2018, his last season under team control before hitting free agency.
This isn’t the first time the Cardinals have been linked to Donaldson. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified Donaldson as a potential Cardinals target on June 4 and Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported the following month that the Cardinals had interest in Donaldson but hadn’t had formal trade talks about him.
If the teams do explore a trade for Donaldson, the Blue Jays would have reason to expect a substantial return. Only two players have more wins above replacement than Donaldson since he debuted with the Blue Jays: Mike Trout of the Angels and Kris Bryant of the Cubs.
The Cardinals played Jedd Gyorko at third base for most of the 2017 season, and the right-handed hitter batted .272/.341/.472 with 20 home runs. He’s under contract for $9 million in 2018 and $13 million for 2019 with a club option for 2020.