The Braves won their second straight NL East title, and offseason acquisition Josh Donaldson had his fair share of contributions on his way to hitting 37 home runs and leading the Braves into the postseason.
He was signed on a 1-year, $23 million deal last winter and certainly awaits an even bigger paycheck this time around. The former AL MVP has been an active part of free agency rumours and already has many suitors. It will be very tough for Atlanta to re-sign him for the same or arguably a bigger price compared to his huge 2019 salary.
Donaldson finished the season 9th in the NL in homeruns with 37 (tied with Josh Bell), and drove in 94 runs – his most in a single campaign since 2016, his latest of 3 All-Star Game appearances. It’s neither a secret nor a question that he resembles the best non-Rendon 3B option on the FA market in an offseason that could see may teams in need for a third baseman.
Where’s the 2015 AL MVP going to wind up? Here are five teams that could soon join the queue for Josh Donaldson’s signing.
St. Louis Cardinals
Last year just showed how dependent the Cardinals are on whether Matt Carpenter has a day at the plate or not. The season after he hit 36 homers his numbers took a downward slip, and so did the Cardinals offensively, finishing the regular season 10th in the National League in runs scored, with their 764 runs being the least among all 12 postseason participants.
Now that they’ve lost one of their most notable bats, outfielder Marcell Ozuna, there’s no reason for the Cards not to go after even Anthony Rendon. However, the team being 7th in payroll, $35 million short of luxury tax in 2019 could be an obstacle in the battle for Rendon, who might demand a contract around that value per year, if not bigger. The Dodgers are in a very strong position in the negotiations for the NL MVP candidate so it’s really possible that St. Louis doesn’t sign Rendon.
Their next target should definitely be Donaldson who would fit the Cardinals’ budget and would be an enormous upgrade to a shorthanded batting lineup that no longer has Ozuna. There aren’t many bigger needs for this team at the moment than a bat and a third baseman.
We previously mentioned that Nationals are highly unlikely to get both Strasburg and Rendon back, but they might be in the best situation if Rendon comes back. While Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez make for a rotation beyond satisfying, the Nationals could be set up for struggles on the offensive side of the ball with no Rendon at clean-up.
Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera are also all free agents. Do they not manage to re-sign Rendon, Donaldson will become a top priority if the club wants to have any chance of the top of the order reproducing what they accomplished last season at least partly.
Although the Braves have back-up options, they should take re-signing their starting third baseman as a move of big importance. After kicking the offseason with a bang, getting free agent reliever Will Smith for 3 years and $39 million, the Braves are whole $84 million behind the $208 million luxury tax mark and could afford to spend actively in the next couple of months.
However, Atlanta has more than one need, and more than one direction they could head towards. The club has been linked with Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler and Mike Moustakas, with the latter being JD’s rebound option. That’s why, as Tomahawk Take, the Braves-dedicated Fansided website, recently mentioned, the talks could very easily fall down if Donaldson’s representatives pump-up his value too much.
That would leave the Alex Anthopoulos-led front office in a win-situation, having the chance to get Moustakas for a cheaper price and address the team’s rotation and catching situation.
The offseason is still less than a month old, and the Rangers have already established themselves as the most aggressive team on the market. There’s no need to list the players they’ve been linked to – it’s simply most of the elite free agents.
The Rangers were the 12th-best offense in 2019 but will suffer their main hitter, Hunter Pence, leaving for free agency. They could still get him back later, although on a more expensive contract, but they very obviously aim to compete in their first season at GlobeLife Field. Josh Donaldson seems like the perfect fit for Texas, whose lineup already has one terrific home run hitter in Joey Gallo.
The road to contention also goes through upgrades in the rotation and especially in the 5th-worst bullpen in the American League. Texas certainly wants to use Mike Minor’s last season before free agency to be a factor in the AL West. Despite the team’s batting average slipping even with Pence out and Donaldson in, JD is still very prolific, so expect the Rangers to have serious interest in Donaldson.
The Milwaukee Brewers face more questions than any other contender when it comes to the infield personnel. The team currently has no listed first basemen on their unofficial depth chart, and nobody among Keston Hiura, Orlando Arcia and Travis Shaw is a natural first baseman. Even if the club finds an average-to-good option at first, Shaw still remains an inconsistent batter.
The Brewers are desperate to either re-sign Mike Moustakas or find a suitable replacement on the market, and Donaldson perfectly fits the latter description. Only Donaldson comes close to Moose’s 35 homers among the free agent third basemen; in fact, he hit two more for the Braves. Donaldson outperformed Moustakas in terms of batting average, RBI and OPS.
Despite recent reports suggesting that the Brewers are hoping to get the former Royals player back, Donaldson might wind up being an even better option for a team that could use a bat to improve the Yelich-Braun-Hiura core, and end up with more than enough left for additions in their question-ridden rotation.