It’s difficult to understand why the Blue Jays would want to move Donaldson, who is signed through 2018 and has quickly established himself as one of the most impactful players in franchise history, leading the club to two straight ALCS appearances since being acquired after the 2014 season. The 31-year-old third baseman’s trade value would seem to be a bit lower than usual right now, since he’s hitting .238/.350/.457 with eight homers in 177 plate appearances this season and spent more than a month on the disabled list with a calf injury.
But if the Jays decide to stage a full-scale rebuild—which wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense since they have the ability to build around two of the league’s best young starters, 26-year-old Marcus Stroman and 25-year-old Aaron Sanchez—then perhaps it’d be wise to move Donaldson and reap the massive return that he could bring back.
A move to acquire Donaldson would signify that the Cardinals are serious about contending for the NL Central title and getting back to the postseason this year. While their first-half results haven’t been particularly intriguing, they’re still within striking distance of the first-place Brewers and are just a game out of second place behind the Cubs, so the addition of Donaldson—even as he’s having a less-than-stellar season—could be the edge they need to vault their competition.
While they could really use a middle-of-the-lineup bat to stabilize their inconsistent offense, the Cardinals’ interest in Donaldson is rather odd, because their best offensive player according to virtually every metric this season has been their current third baseman, Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko is a versatile infielder who could reasonably move to first or second base if the Cardinals acquired another third baseman, but St. Louis currently has two guys who are viewed as cornerstone players—Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong—at those positions.
There’d certainly be reasons for the Cardinals to consider moving on from both of those players. Despite his elite on-base skills and solid power, Carpenter has been a liability on the basepaths and in the field over the past couple seasons. Wong has struggled to remain consistent at the plate and in the field, and while he’s been good in both areas this season, he’s spent nearly half the season on the disabled list.
Neither player would seem to have exceptionally high trade value right now; the 31-year-old Carpenter is in the midst of a down offensive season, at least by his standards, while Wong is still owed $21.75 million over the next four seasons and exclusively plays second base, where most teams around the league are already set.
Perhaps either one could be included in a package for Donaldson, but it’d surely take much more to entice the Blue Jays to give up their franchise player. The Cardinals have a deep farm system, with right-handers Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Jack Flaherty, catcher Carson Kelly, and shortstop Delvin Perez all ranked among MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects, so if they’re willing to sell the farm then maybe they could pique Toronto’s interest. Reyes is the top pitching prospect in baseball and Kelly the top-ranked catcher, so any trade package would likely have to be centered around one or both of them.