TORONTO — Josh Donaldson expects to join a free agent class that could also include fellow sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

First, the third baseman hopes to lead Toronto to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

Donaldson won the AL MVP award in 2015 as the hard-hitting Blue Jays made the first of consecutive appearances in the AL Championship Series. He was limited to 113 games because of injuries last year, and Toronto scored an AL-low 693 runs as it slipped to 76-86 and finished behind Boston, New York and Tampa Bay in the AL East.

“I wouldn’t say we’re on anybody’s radar at this point, which is fine,” Donaldson said. “We believe we’re very capable of doing damage. I believe we can still be a potent offense.”

Donaldson has hit .285 with 111 home runs and 300 RBIs over three seasons in Toronto.

“You look back at the last couple of years, he really has been the centerpiece,” manager John Gibbons said.

Donaldson set a record for a one-year contract for an arbitration-eligible player with a $23 million deal. Donaldson says he and the Blue Jays are “not in the same type of area” on contract talks.

“I feel like all my attention and my focus needs to be on this season,” said Donaldson, who turned 32 in December. “The more I’m out there at third base, the better chance we have to win.”

Other areas to watch with the Blue Jays.

UNCAGED: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez led the AL with a 3.00 ERA in 2016 but made just eight starts in 2017 because of blister issues. He has not had a recurrence during spring training. “I finally feel free to go out there and compete with no cage on me,” Sanchez said. “I felt like last year I was in a cage, not able to go out and do the things I was able to do the year before.”

STARTING STRONG: Right-hander Marcus Stroman was slowed by a sore right shoulder during spring training but is expected to start Toronto’s fourth game, following left-hander J.A. Happ, Sanchez, and righty Marco Estrada. Last year, only Estrada and Stroman made 30 starts, and Toronto used a club-record 14 starters. One year earlier, this quartet anchored a staff that posted an AL-low 3.78 ERA.

NEW FACES: Outfielder Randal Grichuk will start in right field, while veteran Curtis Granderson will platoon with holdover Steve Pearce in left. Infielder Aledmys Diaz and utilityman Yangervis Solarte provide positional versatility. Right-hander Seung Hwan Oh will pitch out of the bullpen and left-hander Jaime Garcia is the fifth starter.

BEST CASE: Sanchez stays healthy and pitches like he did in 2016, Donaldson comes up big in his final season before free agency, Stroman avoids further shoulder soreness, Travis and Tulowitzki solidify both the infield defenze and the batting order by staying healthy all season and the Blue Jays win the second wild card, or better.

WORST CASE: Sanchez battles blisters again and is ineffective, Stroman gets shut down by a sore shoulder, Travis and Tulowitzki are sidelined by long-term absences once more, Justin Smoak’s power stroke disappears, Toronto’s offense remains stuck at the bottom of the AL and Donaldson gets dealt to a contender for prospects ahead of the trade deadline.


AP freelance writer Mark Didtler in Dunedin, Florida, contributed to this report.


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