Antonetti, Indians 'really encouraged' with Donaldson's health

Third baseman has not played since May 28

Alex Hooper
August 31, 2018 - 9:53 pm
May 24, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third base Josh Donaldson (20) hits a single during the regular season MLB game between the Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

© Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 the Fan) – The Cleveland Indians have acquired former American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson from the Toronto Blue Jays, the team confirmed Friday night.

In exchange for the third baseman, Cleveland surrenders a player to be named later. Toronto will also send $2.7 million to the Indians to cover the near-$4 million owed to Donaldson. Cleveland will owe $1 million on the expiring contract.

Outfielder Leonys Martín has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list to clear a spot.

Donaldson has not played a Major League game since May 28 in Boston, slashing .234/.333./423 in 159 plate appearances over 36 games in 2018.

The 32-year-old has been dealing with calf injuries since being placed on the 10-day disabled list for the first time in his career on April 14, 2017. That instance was a right calf injury, while his 2018 ailments have been left calf tightness and a right shoulder strain. He has played 149 games since the start of the 2017 season.

After scouting Donaldson at High-A Dunedin, Team President Chris Antonetti said the Indians staff was ‘really encouraged’ with what they saw.

“With respect to Josh, obviously this is one of the most dynamic players in the game on both sides of the ball when he’s healthy,” Antonetti told reporters Friday night. “We think there’s an opportunity for him to get to a point this month where he’ll be playing in games regularly and has a chance to impact us in the postseason. It was not an easy process to work through, complicated by Josh’s health status this year and him now just working his way back to full health.”

Before he is activated by the Indians, the slugger will likely spend more time rehabbing in the minor leagues. With the majority of the minor league seasons ending on Labor Day Monday, the Double-A Akron RubberDucks have clinched a post-season berth, extending their season to at least September 7. Triple-A Columbus and High-A Lynchburg are also in contention for a post-season berth.

Prior to making a decision on whether or not Donaldson will be sent to the disabled list for minor league rehab, the player will report to Cleveland to be assessed by the Indians medical team before a decision is made.

Donaldson won the 2015 AL MVP behind a .297/.371/.568 slash line with an 8.7 WAR and 154 wRC+.

Since moving from catcher to third base full-time, Donaldson has been tremendous at the hot corner, amassing 51 defensive runs saved over 6970 1/3 innings. He can also play first base, and will likely be used there with the Indians in at least a part-time capacity.

In his final rehab game with High-A Dunedin on Thursday, Donaldson homered.

Antonetti said that the Indians will place Donaldson back at third base upon his return to the big leagues. The assumption is that José Ramírez will shift to second and Jason Kipnis will head to center field, as they did in the 2017 ALDS.

The team was not ready to announce any defensive shifts, as those conversations with Ramírez and Kipnis had not been had. Because of the deal’s completion coming just before midnight, Antonetti said the discussion will be had Saturday.

“We’ve had preliminary conversations with both José and Kip at different points of time over the past month, or month and a half, whatever it has been,” Antonetti said. “But not specifically in this case. Not yet.”

There is also potential to use the righty as a platoon at first against left-handed pitching, and allowing for a better defensive alignment in center. Donaldson also played 34 1/3 innings in the outfield as a farmhand for the Athletics from 2010-2012.

Former Toronto teammate Edwin Encarnacion called Donaldson a great player, and a great teammate. Future Indians teammate Cody Allen lauded his front office.

“Hats off to them. For the last few years, they’ve done everything in their power to put this team in a position to win baseball games. They haven’t failed yet,” the closer said. “Pretty much every guy that has stepped foot in this clubhouse at the deadline or in the off-season has come in and produced in big ways. So, if they’re making a move for somebody, regardless of who it is, they’re going to come in here and are going to help.”