By: Tyler Kelaher
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Groundhogs day has come and gone, the air is getting a little warmer, and spring training is finally underway. With just over a month before Opening Day, here’s the latest news out of Dunedin.
Josh Donaldson’s days are numbered in Toronto
Whoever attended Homestand’s live Pitch Talks event on February 1st would’ve heard Ross Atkins comment on his future plans for Josh Donaldson. He said when it came to a contract extension; he had a number in mind for the 2015 MVP with the hopes of making him a Blue Jay for years to come.
From the looks of it, Atkins presented that number, and Donaldson wasn’t impressed. “As of right now, all my attention and focus needs to be on this season”, said the All-Star third baseman. “We’re not in the same area, the same ballpark, to make a discussion toward moving forward.” When asked, Donaldson went on to confirm that he plans on hitting free agency at the end of the season.
This marks the third time in two years the Blue Jays front office found themselves in a deadlock with a big name player. Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro were reluctant to sign outfielder Jose Bautista to a long term deal in 2016 (safe to say that was a smart move), and saw Edwin Encarnacion sign in Cleveland after turning down a four-year/$80 million offer to stay in Toronto.
Donaldson can still be re-signed by next off-season, though this year’s success will play a factor. The Blue Jays are more than likely to keep him through the trade deadline should they hold, or be in reach of a playoff spot.
If the team replicates their 2017 performance, Donaldson could be one of a few expiring contracts to be shipped-out for future assets.
Aaron Sanchez’s fingers could be ticking time bombs
After a 15-win season in 2016, Aaron Sanchez was an early Cy Young favorite before the start of 2017. He went on to throw just 36 innings due to blister issues on his throwing hand.
Manager John Gibbons has been happy with the strides the 25-year-old has made, and is confident Sanchez will have a healthy bounce-back in 2018.
With that said, no one can really judge how a pitcher’s finger will react through a full 162-game season. When asked about his durability, Sanchez had a “glass half-empty” approach. “I’m not going to sit here and say that I might not have an issue this year”, said the 2016 All-Star. “It could very well be that something pops up”.
Troy Tulowitzki is hurt AGAIN
The Blue Jays haven’t seen Troy Tulowitzki play since late July when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury against the Angels. To make matters worse, the shortstop has been dealing with a chronic bone spur in his right heel.
On the Jays’ first day of full-squad workouts, Tulo took a few groundballs and swung in the batting cage, but didn’t partake in the team’s fielding drills or exercise sessions.
Not the best news for a guy who’s costing the Blue Jays $69 million over the next four years.
Joe Biagini is looking for a roster spot
Biagini got the nod in Toronto’s spring training opener Friday afternoon. He gave up a hit while striking out two in two innings of work.
The right-hander got multiple starts last year to aid the many injuries in the starting rotation. After Toronto signed Jaime Garcia to a 1-year deal this off-season, the fifth starting spot seemed all but lost for Biagini.
A return to the bullpen or trip to Triple-A Buffalo are options the Blue Jays can explore but nothings set in stone yet.
MLB standardized baseball storage
After the juiced-ball allegations last year, the MLB is looking to make some changes. By 2019, all 30 teams may need to store their baseballs in an “air-conditioned and enclosed room”.
The idea is to better control the conditions of the balls storage units, and make each baseball as similar as possible in every major league ballpark.
MLB honours school shooting victims
Teams wore black Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hats to honour the 17 people who were killed in the school shooting on February 14th in Parkland, Florida.
Members of the school’s baseball and softball teams were guests of the Miami Marlins and met with players, coaches and CEO Derek Jeter.