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Trade Target: Josh Donaldson

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Is the third baseman a fit for for the Cardinals?

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few weeks, I have considered the prospects and probability that the Cardinals acquire Marcus Stroman, Christian Yelich, or Marcell Ozuna. Today, we return to the NL East and to the Toronto Blue Jays to examine Josh Donaldson.

Despite the speculation that the Cardinals would make a move to acquire Donaldson at the 2017 trade deadline, it came and went. Donaldson remained in Toronto. Before diving in to Donaldson as a player, it is wise that we first consider the fork in the road where the Blue Jays currently find themselves. After winning only 76 games this year, they are at a crossroads. Do they make another push with the core that they have or do they blow it up and start over?

The answer to that question might not matter to the Cardinals. As Pegasus wrote in his trade partner profile a couple weeks ago, if the Blue Jays rebuild or not, the Cardinals still match up well. It boils down to needs. Should Toronto initiate a full rebuild, the Cardinals have the prospects to make a trade feasible. On the other hand, should Toronto attempt to extend their window, the Cardinals have MLB ready players to send their way.

Ben Markham walked us through the logic of a Toronto rebuild yesterday. Essentially, the Red Sox are working hard and believe they can win, firing their manager after making the NLDS. And the Yankees are trending up even faster than expected. It is evident why the Blue Jays would rebuild. Still, winning is tempting. Especially for an organization that is only one year removed from winning 89 games and two years removed from winning the AL East and advancing to the ALCS. Their decision will be obvious in the coming months, but for now, it is anyone’s guess.

Back to the player at hand: Josh Donaldson.

In many of these trade target pieces, the player has obvious value. And rightly so. Shouldn’t players who would be considered a large upgrade via trade have considerable value? Donaldson is certainly no exception. Just last year he posted a wRC+ value of 149. Phenomenal. But what is more impressive is that was his worst year since 2014.

The third baseman had a career high ISO—.289— this year, along with 33 home runs in only 133 games. In every sense of the phrase, Josh Donaldson is the big bat the Cardinals seek.

Trades do not come without downsides. Aside from the prospects the Cardinals would have to give up, Donaldson will be 32 years old next season. That alone should not be enough to dissuade the front office from making a run at the slugger, but he does only have one year remaining on his contract. That, too, is another factor to consider.

Acquiring an aging player as a rental is a proposition with both risks and rewards. It is quite possible Donaldson would sign elsewhere as a free agent after the 2018 season. In this scenario, what would the Cardinals gain by trading for him now? Entrance to the lottery that is the MLB playoffs? Is it worth it? That certainly depends on the prospects the Blue Jays seek.

Pegasus modeled one deal after the Jason Heyward-Shelby Miller deal. It would be Donaldson for Gyorko and Dakota Hudson. Should the Blue Jays be willing to accept this offer, the Cardinals would be overjoyed. Pegasus further commented that “rentals don’t produce blockbusters.” This is the problem with acquiring Donaldson now—he would only be a rental.

While that fact lessens his value as a trade chip, he is still capable of elite production on the field. Are the Cardinals in a position where they need to go all in for 2018? Absolutely not. However, the right deal for Donaldson, even considering his contract situation, might be difficult to pass up. And the Cardinals could easily slot him in at third—in the field and the batting order.

He is a fit, but the Cardinals must carefully weigh what they trade up given that they could very well be left empty handed in a years time.