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Josh Donaldson Free Agent Preview: Making It Rain

Coming off a rebound season, Josh Donaldson is hitting the free agent market entering his age-34 season and likely looking at his last big payday.  After two injury-plagued seasons, Donaldson made his way to Atlanta on a one year, $23M deal to rebuild his value and earned every penny of it. Despite a monster season, there will be some limitations to his market and he will likely take a backseat to Anthony Rendon for most serious suitors.  Let us take a look into his upcoming free agency.

His 2019:

  • 6.1 WAR
  • .259/.379/.521
  • 33 doubles. 37 HR, 94 RBI and 100 walks
  • 155 games played
  • Second in defensive runs saved among 3B

His Case:

Let us look at the case for Josh Donaldson entering free agency in 2019.  Donaldson was arguably one of the best in baseball from 2013-2016 (before a couple injury-plagued seasons) and was phenomenal in 2019.  Unfortunately, he has some big negatives that may ultimately cost him in free agency.

  1. Injury history
  2. Age (34 in December)
  3. Draft pick compensation

Free Agent Comps:

The best free agent comps of recent memory are below.  All are encompassing his age and bat, although some aren’t taking into account his defensive value.

  • J.D. Martinez in 2019 opting into remaining 3 yrs./$62.45M for age 32-34 seasons
  • Adrian Beltre in 2011 (5 yrs./$80M) for his age 32-36 seasons
  • Nelson Cruz in 2014 (4 yrs./$57M) for age 33-36 seasons

Suitors:

Atlanta Braves

The Braves are the most familiar with Donaldson but could decide to shift those dollars elsewhere.  Turning to Austin Riley and Johan Camargo would be a big downgrade, but it would free up money for pitching. With their spending in full-force already, 3B and SP are the last of their “needs”. With their core locked up for cheap, this could be the year to spend big on a free agent.

Philadelphia Phillies

With no real answer at third, the Phillies could add another superstar to a big swinging lineup.  A Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Josh Donaldson lineup would be quite brutal for opposing pitchers. Maikel Franco is not the answer and Donaldson could be a bridge for their top prospect Alec Bohm. The Phillies have some big contracts coming off the books next year and Harper could use some protection in the lineup.

Texas Rangers

Texas is moving into a new ballpark in 2020 and is looking to spend.  Third has been void of talent since Adrian Beltre retired… could Donaldson bring some rain to Texas? Similarly to the Phillies, the Rangers don’t currently have an answer at third and have top prospect Josh Jung 2-3 years away from contributing. Moving into a new ballpark with Joey Gallo and Josh Donaldson mashing would definitely be exciting for the fans.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals could very well lose Anthony Rendon to any of these suitors this offseason and it would leave a giant void in their lineup.  However, Donaldson would come at a lower AAV and for only three or four years. Reallocating the money to Donaldson plus a bullpen arm could more beneficial in the long-run. The Nationals let Harper walk and won a World Series the following year… Could they do the same with Rendon?

New York Mets

Somewhat of a sleeper here.  If the Mets decide to spend this offseason, third base is in need of an upgrade.  With the insurance likely kicking in for Yoenis Cespedes’ salary, they could allocate those dollars to Donaldson’s bank account. The Mets got very little production from 3B in 2019 and adding a ~6 WAR guy to a lineup featuring Pete Alonso would definitely be intimidating.

Prediction:

Three years / $75M to re-sign with the Braves

Author Twitter: @TheRealKraken24

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jkricun
MLB Contributor for @OTHeroics1 Braves * Falcons * Hawks * UNC * Beer * Whiskey * Sadness
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