Jon Heyman: Donaldson's agent contradicts his client in 'fake' release

The unusual thing about Josh Donaldson’s agent Dan Lozano issuing a statement claiming “no years or dollars were ever specifically discussed,” in response to our mention deep in a story about Donaldson’s value of an offer Toronto made to him in winter was that Donaldson himself had openly admitted to talking about money and potential deals with the Blue Jays this spring.

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While not saying exactly where the sides stood, Donaldson’s extensive comments early this spring about the sides not being “in the same ballpark” were widely circulated at the time, and quite revelatory. In just one of the stories at the time, this one by John Lott in The Athletic, Donaldson conveyed the idea that sides were “far apart” in Lott’s words.

Donaldson said in that story, “We are not quite there,” about a potential deal. “There isn’t a deal done. And we’re just not there. We’re not at the same type of area, the same type of ballpark.”

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Of course to be in ballparks, you have to know where the other side's ballpark stands. So of course they talked money. (Otherwise you wouldn't know where the other side stands!)

The angry press release was an obvious attempt to obscure the reality that the Jays and the Donaldson camp knew exactly where they stood. It was an effort to obfuscate the reality that the sides held extensive talks to see whether a deal was possible -- and as Donaldson himself revealed, it wasn't possible.

Presumably, the use of the word "specifically" suggests the press release was an attempt to use semantics to hide the reality that an opportunity was lost. Perhaps the offer wasn't a formal, written offer but rather a verbal one. But to pretend there weren't negotiations or an understanding of the deals that could be made is nothing short of disingenuous.

So ultimately, this was an example of a fake news release.

The offending paragraph (at least to the Donaldson camp, based on the statement out of the Lozano office and signed by their p.r. man Josh Goldberg) in our story stated that word was the Jays extended an offer of somewhere in the Jake Arrieta ballpark — which was $75 million for three years — and there was a further suggestion in the story it could have been a bit higher than that, with some flexibility for a possible fourth year.

The story suggested they weren’t close, which only jibed with what Donaldson himself said in spring.

And by the way, while Jays higher-ups, who are declining comment, presumably because they don't feel it's appropriate to discuss a player now with the Cleveland Indians and/or don't want to upset the player (or the agent, who has a stable of players), like Donaldson had suggested in past interviews the same things as Donaldson about discussions and "ballparks."

In any case, word still is — and word is coming from multiple places — that there was an offer in that Arrieta range (and perhaps a bit higher). It likely wasn’t a written, formal offer but it was an offer of a number or range of numbers that the Donaldson camp could have accepted (or negotiated off, as Donaldson suggested in his “ballparks” quote). An offer is an offer, whether written or formal or not. And many, many people understand that Donaldson could have taken a deal comparable or better than the Arrieta deal. And that is the real word.

There’s no new word from the Lozano camp. But one possible explanation told to me about the denial is that Donaldson wants to avoid what another former Blue Jays star, Jose Bautista, went through, when it was reported (by TSN out of Toronto) that Bautista asked for $150 million, and some public perception turned against him. Weeks ago Donaldson shot back on Twitter when I suggested in a couple-line note that he was looking for a big price, and without all the facts at the time, I apologized.  But it’s clear he wanted something not in the “ballpark” of the Arrieta deal. So decide for yourself.

Since the Lozano statement claimed an “agenda” by me against MVP Company, he presumably saw those couple lines about the offer as an attack on his company (even though it turns out it was just an interesting fact buried deep in the story) since at this point it would have been better to accept (which I didn’t mention). But it was no attack.

Lozano may have regret about not jumping on that winter opportunity, and they may be nervous that Donaldson has regret about it, too.


But fairly, no one could have foreseen Donaldson’s year being wrecked by injury, not off three fantastic campaigns in Toronto in which he won the MVP, and followed that by two seasons with strong MVP finishes (thus the Jays’ strong financial interest in keeping him last winter!).

While it wasn’t an unreasonable offer/suggestion/try by the Jays by any means, hardly any free agents of Donaldson's stature sign with their current team when free agency is less than a year away, and no blame was being assigned, real or imagined. It wasn’t suggested that Donaldson made a mistake not taking that deal. He would have had to be a seer to predict how his year would turn out.

As for Lozano, his relationship with facts was well documented in the Deadspin article that recounted how he pretended to be a USC graduate when he never did graduate, how he suggested he starred in baseball there when there is no record of that and even how he pretended to be Italian to impress certain clients (he is not Italian).

Yet, despite his history — and despite the revelations by Donaldson in spring of talks where the sides were not in the same ballpark — he still threw out that false denial.

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.