Third baseman Josh Donaldson and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a $23 million, one-year contact, a $6 million raise for the 2015 AL MVP.
The 32-year-old, a three-time All-Star, rebounded from an injury-slowed 2016 to hit .270 last season with 33 homers and 78 RBIs in 113 games. The sure-handed infielder missed time from April 14 through May 25 with a calf injury, which also hampered him during spring training.
Donaldson was coming off a $28.65 million, two-year deal. He is eligible for free agency after this season.
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Bryce Harper set the previous record for an arbitration-eligible player when he signed a $21.65 million deal with the Washington Nationals for the 2018 season.
Donaldson, 32, didn’t appear headed for a historic payday after he was limited to 45 appearances over the first half of the season because of a calf injury.
Donaldson ranks second behind Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout with 28 wins above replacement over the last four seasons. His 140 home runs also rank first among third basemen during that stretch.
If Donaldson is able to stay healthy in 2018, he should be in prime position to secure a lucrative long-term deal when he becomes a free agent once his fourth year with the Blue Jays wraps up.
The Blue Jays spent a good portion of the winter listening to trade offers for Donaldson as they face the decision of whether to send him away while getting value in return or possibly losing him with no compensation as a free agent. The 2015 AL MVP will be 33 when he hits the market next winter.
The benefit that the Blue Jays have right now is that Donaldson has shown no interest in leaving so the best approach might be to hold onto him and see what happens this season and make a decision at the trade deadline.
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