As the offseason drew near, it became obvious that star third baseman Josh Donaldson could again be a major early target. Teams wishing for top-level production without the lengthy commitment will be vying for the veteran.
At least two clubs — the Rangers and Phillies — are already making their interest known, according to reports from Jeff Passan of ESPN and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Both were among the best on-paper fits entering the open market, as we noted in the course of our list of the top 50 free agents.
Before those and other lurking organizations can put in their bids, Donaldson will have to formally decline the qualifying offer he was issued by the Braves. That’s a formality, but it’ll keep the offers off the table until November 14. (Interested teams can chat with Donaldson’s reps in the meantime, it’s worth noting.)
Last winter, the Braves were able to lure Donaldson with a one-year, $24M offer. But that came on the heels of an injury-riddled campaign for the former MVP, who more than made good on the hefty bet placed by the Atlanta organization with a strong and healthy 2019 season.
Donaldson is a month away from his 34th birthday. And he wasn’t quite at the height of his powers in the just-completed campaign. But he was an outstanding performer against any measure other than his own top-of-class ceiling. Over 659 plate appearances, Donaldson turned in a .259/.379/.521 batting line (132 wRC+) with 37 home runs and a healthy 15.2 percent walk rate.
It wasn’t just a return with the bat. Depending upon one’s defensive metric of choice, he was either a good or excellent performer at the hot corner, resulting in something like a 5 or 6 WAR season. If you’re not a fan of the glove grades … let’s just say the former Athletics and Blue Jays superstar pretty much looked like his old self in all respects.
Donaldson is a fiery leader who would certainly light a spark for these or other organizations. He’s also going to hit the market carrying draft compensation as an added cost of signing him. That always must be factored into an open-market offer, though it’s perhaps of particular note for the Rangers and Phillies. The former team is arguably not quite ready for a full push for contention, though the new Texas field (synthetic though it may be) could desperately use some of the rain that Donaldson is wont to bring. As for the Phils, they’re putting out word that they’re loath to surrender more draft picks this offseason. There may be something to that, but it’s also plainly a wiser public statement than last winter’s unintentional slogan.