Under The Bleachers: Josh Donaldson, American League MVP

Above: Josh Donaldson just became the second Blue Jay to be named the American League's top player
Above: Josh Donaldson just became the second Blue Jay to be named the American League's top player

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson is the 2015 American League Most Valuable Player, edging out last year’s winner Mike Trout to become the second player in franchise history to win the honours.

Acquired last offseason from the Oakland A’s in exchange for Brett Lawrie and a trio of minor league pitching prospects, many MLB observers saw the potential for this type of season from the 29-year-old “Bringer of Rain” after he finished fourth and eighth in the voting for the award in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Always a spirited player with plenty of pop, moving to the hitter-friendly confines of Rogers Centre from Oakland’s cavernous park was viewed as an upgrade and Donaldson certainly made the most of it.

Donaldson finished the year with a .297/.371/.568 slash, 41 home runs, 121 runs batted in and a league-high 122 runs scored, all while playing strong defense and being the most consistent hitter for the Blue Jays all season long. From clutch hits to incredible plays in the field, Donaldson was the catalyst for Toronto’s unexpected American League East division title and helping the club break its lengthy playoff drought.

The Blue Jays corner man beat Trout by a narrow margin after the Los Angeles Angels centerfielder posted another incredible year, batting .299 with 41 home runs, 90 RBI and a league-leading .590 slugging percentage while delivering his standard brand of eye-popping defense on a nightly basis. While Thursday was Donaldson’s day, it’s impossible not to look at what Trout has accomplished thus far in his career and not be amazed. The 24-year-old New Jersey native has played four big league seasons, collecting one MVP “gold medal” and three silvers while putting up 139 homers, 397 RBI and 477 runs scored.

His current career comps according to Baseball Reference? Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson and a host of other Hall of Famers. It’s ridiculous how good Trout has been and continues to be and though he was the runner-up this year (again), he’ll win this award a couple more times before his career is over.

Donaldson’s win is something to celebrate for the Jays and their fans, but it’s also a somewhat bittersweet moment as well, as he was acquired by Alex Anthopoulos in a deal that came to stand as a testament to the now departed GM’s willingness to pull the trigger and improve his club. After one season, it also stands as a first-rate fleecing.

Lawrie had his best season to date, hitting .260 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI, Kendall Graveman went 6-9 with a 4.05 ERA and Sean Nolin posted a 1-2 mark with an ERA over 5.00 in a handful of starts, while Franklin Barreto remained in the minors all year. As much as those young arms have time to make up some of the difference in this trade going forward, it’s going to take a lot to trump Donaldson’s MVP performance.

Donaldson is arbitration eligible this season and should get a hefty raise after making $4.3M last year. Given that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are a little older and nearing the end of their respective deals, don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays look to lock him into a long-term deal before Spring Training starts.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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