Blue Jays sign 6; Donaldson may head to hearing

AL MVP, pitcher Chavez lone Toronto arbitration-eligible players not to agree

Blue Jays sign 6; Donaldson may head to hearing

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays and star third baseman Josh Donaldson appear to be on the verge of going to arbitration for the second consecutive year after the two sides did not come to terms prior to Friday's deadline for exchanging salary figures.

Toronto did avoid arbitration with six players by signing right-handers Drew Storen, Drew Hutchison and Steve Delabar, left-handers Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup and outfielder Michael Saunders to one-year deals. Donaldson and right-hander Jesse Chavez are the only two arbitration-eligible players who remain unsigned.

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The deadline to exchange arbitration figures was Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET. Teams and players are allowed to continue negotiating after the deadline, but if a deal cannot be reached, an independent arbitrator will oversee a hearing and then pick one of the two salary numbers.

The Blue Jays follow an arbitration policy commonly known as file and trial, which means the club will not negotiate contracts after Friday's deadline and will instead go to arbitration. In the past, exceptions have been made for multi-year contract extensions but not one-year pacts.

Donaldson and Danny Valencia became the first Blue Jays players since Bill Risley in 1997 to go to arbitration when they went through the process last year. Donaldson had been seeking $5.75 million, but he lost his case and was granted $4.3 million before going on to win the American League MVP Award.

According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, Donaldson is seeking $11.8 million through arbitration this year, and the Blue Jays countered with $11.35 million. Heyman also reported that Chavez filed at $4 million and Toronto submitted a figure of $3.6 million. Hearings across Major League Baseball are scheduled to begin in February.

Cecil was arbitration-eligible for the third and final time in his career, but instead he signed a one-year contract worth $3.8 million. Storen also is set to hit free agency next season, and he will make $8.375 million in his first year with the Blue Jays. Hutchison received $2.2 million, Saunders got $2.9 million, Loup agreed at $1.05 million and Delabar came in at $835,000.

Storen was recently acquired from the Nationals in a trade for outfielder Ben Revere, and the reliever is expected to compete with Roberto Osuna for the closer's job. At the very least, Storen figures to fill a prominent role in late-inning relief. His arbitration case would have received a boost from 95 career saves, including 29 last year in Washington.

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Saunders, in his third and final season of arbitration eligibility, made $2.875 million in 2015. Toronto acquired him from Seattle last offseason, but the 29-year-old missed all but nine games with left knee problems. Saunders had batted .248/.320/.423 with 39 home runs over the previous three seasons for the Mariners.

Delabar was an All-Star for Toronto in 2013, but he has posted a 5.07 ERA over 61 games in the two seasons since. The 32-year-old right-hander, who also pitched 24 games at Triple-A Buffalo in '15, was arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.