By Stephanie Metzger
I’ve been on Jason Donald’s bandwagon for quite a while now, and the opinion I’m about to express is one I’ve been saying for months.
I think Jason Donald is an incredibly underrated player. He’s a multi-tool player who can handle a number of positions and while he isn’t a power-hitting offensive threat, he’s done some respectable things with his bat solid enough to post a .318 average in 39 games last season.
The catch is, I think the Cleveland Indians should trade Jason Donald.
Jason Donald has a tremendous amount of trade value. He can play either middle-infield position and can also play outfield after putting some work in the grass this spring.
In Donald’s defense, it doesn’t seem right to hoard him on the bench when he deserves the chance to be a big-league starter. Of course, he’ll never start for the Tribe as long as Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis are on the diamond. Why not trade Donald while his value is high and receive some help in return?
Donald did a fantastic job last season as the team’s utility man, so it’s easy to see why letting him go would be difficult. He can give Cabrera and Kipnis a breather and pinch-hit in various situations. That being said, letting him go could bring in the help the team is seeking, especially in left field.
So what could the Tribe get in exchange for Donald? They would most likely need to package him with another player or two. Combining him with one of the relievers is a valid option. No, I don’t mean Vinnie Pestano. Perhaps a guy like Joe Smith could boost the appeal of a trade. Throw in a prospect and suddenly, this trade has potential.
While the team couldn’t bring in Ryan Braun or Logan Morrison, there is still a chance for a strong outfielder. My first instinctive thought is Brett Gardner of the Yankees. This may seem like a long shot at gut reaction, but if you give it some further thought, it may make sense. Call me crazy, but if the Indians added someone like David Huff to a Jason Donald deal, they might have the Yankees’ attention. Huff still shows promise as a younger arm, something that the Yankees could use. The only issue is that Donald would once again be a utility guy and would not get the chance to become an everyday player, as long as Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and that dude named Derek Jeter are around. Plus, the Yankees already have a number of infielders in their organization that could be called up for a utility role.
So let’s take a look at a different scenario and consider a team that could use Donald as an everyday player. Let’s look at the Toronto Blue Jays.
Currently, Kelly Johnson is the Blue Jays’ starting second baseman. Johnson has a surprising amount of power, but he is certainly not a core player. Yunel Escobar is the starting shortstop, and it would be highly unlikely that Donald could steal his spot, considering Escobar is their .290-hitting lead-off man. Donald has a legitimate chance at second base if he were to post a decent average. Johnson’s average was low last season (.222) though his power gives him an edge – but if Donald were to maintain the .318 average he hit for last season, the Blue Jays may consider making a grab for him, especially since their utility candidates are an aged Omar Vizquel and the Luis Valbuena.
And who could the Indians get in return? Ben Francisco. Remember him? Remember Cliff Lee? Yep, that’s the trade I’m talking about. The Indians sent Francisco to the Phillies with Cliff Lee and now, Francisco is the Blue Jays’ fourth outfielder.
Bring Francisco back. He doesn’t provide a lot of offensive pop, but he gets on a base via the walk and he’d be a defensive upgrade for sure.
I really love Jason Donald. He’s worked hard and has overcome a barrage of injuries to maintain his career as a respectable ballplayer. If you ask me, he deserves a shot at a starting position. Not saying that the Indians take him for granted, but it seems wrong to anchor him to the bench when he has the potential to piece together a real big league career.
Then again, baseball is business. And while I think the Tribe could obtain a solid left fielder to fill the void out there, if there’s any guy I want on my Tribe’s bench, it’s Jason Donald’s wet head.