TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson did not get the long-term deal he was hoping for -- at least not yet -- but a record setting arbitration settlement should come as a pretty good consolation prize.
Donaldson and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration on Friday morning by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $23 million (all figures in U.S. dollars). Toronto has yet to officially announce the signing but it was first reported by Sportsnet and has since been confirmed by The deal came just a couple of hours before Friday's 1 p.m. ET deadline for teams and players to exchange figures in preparation of the arbtration process.
The one-year deal surpasses the previous arbitration record, which was set in 2017 by Bryce Harper's $21.625 million contract.
Josh Donaldson agrees to a record $23M deal to avoid arbitration with Blue Jays
Donaldson previously expressed a desire to explore a long-term contract, but there have yet to be any indications the two sides ever got close. He remains eligible for free agency at the end of the year.
"It's a compliment that there are other teams who feel like their team would be better with me in it, and I tend to agree with them," Donaldson told MLB Network Friday morning when asked about the frequent trade rumors. "The fact of the matter is that I really enjoy where I'm at right now.
"I enjoy being a Toronto Blue Jay. I enjoy what we've been able to build in this organization. I could be okay if this is where I spend the rest of my career. I could also be okay if they decide to move on. Those aren't my decisions."
Toronto went through arbitration with Donaldson in 2015, and it's a process the club did not want to repeat. The Blue Jays will now avoid the awkward process of trying to argue in a hearing why Donaldson should be paid a lower amount and can instead shift their attention to their remaining offseason needs.
Donaldson is coming off a year in which he hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and 78 RBIS. He was one of the best players in baseball over the final two months, but prior to that, he suffered through a disappointing first half that included calf and hip issue. It was the first time in four years that he did not finish top 10 in voting for the American League MVP.
Toronto is considered a file-and-trial team when it comes to arbitration. Once salary figures are exchanged, then the club is adamant about taking the player through the process. That strategy is intended to putting some pressure on the player and his agent to sign a deal and avoid the potentially confrontational hearing. Exceptions to the rule are made for multiyear deals.
"I think almost every team is file-and-trial now," Donaldon said. "So once you file numbers, you're going to a trial unless a multiyear is done. With that said, there weren't a lot of teams who were that way [before]. Normally there was a filing process, and after the filing process, teams negotiated after that. I think it's just the way that the ownership in baseball is going. They understand arbitration and they understand how fickle the situation is. I think they're willing to let it ride on some players, when before that wasn't the case."
Donaldson is expected to become one of the top free agents available at the end of the year. It's a crowded free-agent class, but it's also shaping up to be one of the best groups that baseball has seen in recent memory. Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, potentially David PriceAndrew Miller and Charlie Blackmon are poised to hit the market.
Earlier Friday, the Blue Jays agreed to terms with third outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and left-handed reliever Aaron Loup on contracts for the 2018 season to avoid arbitration.
Carrera, 30, batted .282/.356/.408 with eight homers and 10 steals in 131 games for Toronto last season while earning $1,162,500. He'll receive a bump in salary this year to $1.9 million (all figures in US dollars).
Loup, also 30, went 2-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 70 appearances for the Blue Jays in 2017. He'll earn $1,812,500 this season after making $1.125 million last year.
The Blue Jays have five arbitration-eligible players remaining, including Marcus StromanKevin PillarAaron SanchezRoberto Osuna and Devon Travis.
Friday at 1 p.m. ET is the deadline for arbitration-eligible players and their teams to exchange proposed salary figures for 2018. If teams do not end up settling with a player, they go to a hearing, in which a panel of arbitrators decides between the two competing figures.
Gregor Chisholm

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