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Top 60 All-Time Greatest Blue Jays: #15 Josh Donaldson

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Los Angeles Angels v. Toronto Blue Jays

Joshua Adams Donaldson | 3B | 2015 - 2018

Josh Donaldson is the last of 2-3 year Blue Jays on the list. Up from here, we have longer-tenured Blue Jays. But Josh was pretty special for the 3+ seasons he was with the Jays. If I was making a list of best seasons in Blue Jays history, Josh would have two very near the top (and a third one not all that far back).

Josh was born December 8, 1985, in Pensacola, Florida. He was a first-round pick, by the Chicago Cubs, in the 2007 draft, #48 overall. David Price was number 1 that year. Our Jays had a few picks that round. We got Kevin Ahrens, J.P. Arencibia, Brett Cecil, Justin Jackson, and Trystan Magnuson, so we got more value out of Donaldson than the five of them put together.

In June of 2007, Josh, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, and Eric Patterson were traded to the Oakland A’s for Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden. I think Billy Bean can count that one as a win.

The A’s called Donaldson up at the end of April 2010 and sent him and his .154 average back down by mid-May. He came up for a few more games at the end of the season. At that time, he was a catcher. He spent 2011 in the minors and started the 2012 season in the majors at his new position of third base but was sent back to the minors mid-June due to a .153/.160/.235 line. Called back up in mid-August, he hit more like Josh Donaldson, we know, with a .290/.356/.489 line and 8 home runs in 47 games. He was the A’s full-time third baseman for the next two seasons, playing 316 of 324 games. He was great, receiving MVP votes both years.

After the 2014 season, on November 28th, Alex Anthopoulos made one of the best, if not the best trade, in Blue Jays history (there is an idea for a series of posts in the future). The Jays sent Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman, Brett Lawrie, and Sean Nolan to Oakland. The reaction here was thrilled, with some feeling we sold low on Lawrie and that he would realize his potential with the A’s. He didn’t. Our poll on the trade went:

  • 44% Love it, the Blue Jays made out like bandits.
  • 50% Pleased, seems like a win-win.
  • 6% Hate it, the Athletics came out ahead.

It very definitely didn’t turn out to be a win-win.

Josh had an incredible 2015 season, hitting .297/.391/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He scored 122 runs and drove in 123 runs. He won the AL MVP award (beating out Mike Trout) and led us to the playoffs for the first time since (as my kids would say) dinosaurs roamed the earth.

There were many great moments from Josh this season:

  • He hit a walk-off home run on April 18th.
  • Talking to the media, he said, ‘this isn’t the try league’, talking about the struggles the team was having at the start of the season, suggesting if the players on the team can’t ‘do it’, they will be replaced.
  • There was a walk-off, three-run home run against the White Sox.
  • A catch diving into the stands.
  • Another walk-off home run, late in the season.

In the ALDS, against the Rangers, he hit .222/.333/.611 and was on base for Jose Bautista’s bat flip home run in game five. In our six-game series loss to the Royals, Josh hit .261/.370/.478.

In 2016 Donaldson almost duplicated his numbers from the year before, hitting .284/.404/.549 with 37 home runs, 122 runs, and 99 RBI. By bWAR he was a tiny bit better, 7.2 compared to 7.1 in 2015. This time he finished fourth in MVP voting (Trout won it this time).

One of my favorite moments of the season was the interview with Barry Davis where Josh, seemingly tired of the interview, said ‘We like our team Barry’, and gave a nice look into the camera before heading off.

And we made the playoffs again.

In the Wild Card game against the Orioles, Josh was 2 for 5 with a double and was on base for Edwin Encarnacion’s walk-off home run. He was incredible in our 3-game ALDS win over the Rangers, hitting .538/.571/.846. And he was one of the few Jays who hit well against Cleveland in our ALCS loss, with a .333/.400/.556 line with a home run.

You will likely remember that he scored the series-winning run in the tenth inning of game 3, scoring from second on a Rougned Odor error (famed in song and, well, t-shirt, as the Donaldson Dash).

In 2017, he put up a similar batting line, .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and 78 RBI, but he missed about 40 games with a calf injury.

Donaldson started the 2018 season with a ‘dead arm’ and a bat that, if it wasn’t dead, it was in intensive care. He went on the DL on April 13th with shoulder inflammation. He came back in early May, played most of the month, and then went back on the DL with a calf issue. It ended up that he was out of the lineup until the trade deadline when he was activated and traded to Cleveland for Julian Merryweather.

We were not thrilled.

The team knew they weren’t going to sign him after the season, didn’t want to give him a qualifying offer, figuring he might take it, and wanted to get something, anything back for him. I also had the feeling that the

Josh would play 16 games for Cleveland at the end of the season and then played in their three-game ALDS loss to the Astros. Josh had just 1 hit in 11 at-bats. After the season, Josh signed a one-year deal with the Braves. A good season with Atlanta, including another trip to the playoffs, built up Donaldson’s value to where he could sign a four-year (plus an option), $92 million contract with the Twins.

As a Blue Jay, Josh hit .281/.383/.548 with 116 home runs, 316 RBI in 462 games.

But then he was more than the numbers. Over the years, I often thought I’d never see a player as intense as Jose Bautista, but I think Josh matched him. Josh, like Jose, could be combative with umpires and opponents. He and Jose gave the team a personality, mostly the team that other teams hated, and a team who wanted to win at all costs.

Josh Donaldson’s place among Blue Jay batting leaders:

bWAR: 15th, 19.2

Batting Average: 12th, .281

On Base Average: 5th, .383

Slugging Average: 2nd, .548

OPS: 2nd, .931

Games Played: 45th, 462

Plate Appearances: 39th, 2066

Run Scored: 30th, 331

Home Runs: 15th, 116

RBI: 26th, 316

Walks: 19th, 279

Single season:

bWAR: 6th (2016), 7th (2017)

Slugging: 10th (2015)

OPS: 10th (2016)

Runs: 2nd (2015 and 2016) tied

RBI: 7th, (2015)

Walks: 7th (2016)