According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Donaldson and the Blue Jays agreed to terms on a two-year deal worth just under $29 million to avoid arbitration on Monday. The Blue Jays announced the deal on Wednesday, via Davidi.
Donaldson tweeted his reaction:
Mood right now. pic.twitter.com/QCJBAcc0GW— Josh Donaldson (@BringerOfRain20) February 9, 2016
On Thursday, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reported Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said the two sides were "going to work toward a multiyear deal" even though Donaldson was already under team control through 2018.
To say Donaldson's 2015 season was a revelation would be selling it short. Although his stock was trending up following a 2014 All-Star selection with the Oakland A's, Donaldson broke out and captured American League MVP honors as he helped the Blue Jays nab the franchise's first AL East title since 1993.
"We tore down a lot of thresholds this organization has had," Donaldson said after winning the MVP Award, according to ESPN.com. "For us to come out on top...I definitely think that helped."
Donaldson played 158 games and led the league in runs (122), RBI (123) and total bases (352) while drilling a career-best 41 home runs and batting a stellar .297. Donaldson's mark of 7.7 offensive wins above replacement also ranked third overall behind Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, each of whom tallied an offensive WAR of 8.9.
Donaldson ranked third in the majors in total WAR (8.8) among position players—behind National League MVP Harper (9.9) and Trout (9.4).
It would have been understandable if the Blue Jays had opted to retain Donaldson's services via the arbitration process until their period of team control expired, but his accelerated growth proved worthy of a long-term commitment.
The fresh deal also mitigates the risk that would have accompanied paying Donaldson through arbitration, as CBS Sports' David Brown wrote in January:
Look ahead to free agency in 2019: After listening to the Jays rip him in arbitration, is it going to make Donaldson more willing to take a "hometown discount" to stay in Toronto? Yeah, it's not likely that Donaldson will be signing a contract extension with the Jays at that point, and it's probable that other teams would outbid the Jays in free agency.
Now that Donaldson is locked up, Toronto can focus on trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 1993. The 2015 season proved to be a monumental step forward for a franchise that hadn't reached the postseason in over two decades, but Donaldson and Co. figure to be eyeing a much bigger leap in the months ahead.