Braves lose Josh Donaldson to Twins

Bill Shanks

The Josh Donaldson verdict is in.

Atlanta’s third baseman last season has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $92 million dollar contract with the Minnesota Twins. Ken Rosenthal and others reported Tuesday night the deal includes a fifth-year option that could make the deal worth $100 million.

Reports surfaced late Monday night that the Braves were out of contention for the 34-year-old veteran slugger. The belief had been that if the Braves were close to Donaldson’s number, rumored a few weeks ago to be near $110 million for four years, he would return to Atlanta.

But obviously, the Braves were not near that number or the number Donaldson got from the Twins. The deal with Minnesota has an AAV (average annual value) of $23 million for the first four years, which was the amount Donaldson got from the Braves in the one-year deal he signed for 2019.

Donaldson hit .259 with the Braves last season with 37 home runs and 94 RBI, along with a .379 on base percentage. In his first 62 games last season, Donaldson hit .237 with a .357 OBP, eight home runs and 25 RBI in 215 at bats. Then in his next 300 at bats, Donaldson hit .283 with a .407 OBP, 29 home runs and 63 RBI. Donaldson hit only .176 in his final nine games of the regular season and then was just 3-19 (.158) in the five-game playoff series with the Cardinals.

It took a while for Donaldson to adjust to his new team, after spending the first eight years of his career in the American League. But in midseason, as his bat was getting hotter, Donaldson seemed to fit in more in the Atlanta clubhouse, long-known for its button-down approach. The Alabama-native brought a country, redneck feel to the Braves team that needed that environment to be loosened up a bit.

Toward the end of the season, the player nicknamed the “bringer of rain” would stroll through the dugout carrying an umbrella after he hit a home run. The scene endeared him to Braves fans everywhere, and it also showed Donaldson’s teammates had warmed up to his fun approach to the game of baseball.

Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos had traded for Donaldson before the 2015 season for the Blue Jays and Donaldson promptly won the American League MVP award with a tremendous season. When the Braves needed a power bat for 2019, Anthopoulos brought Donaldson back south on a one-year deal for Donaldson to repair his value, which had been damaged by an injury-plagued 2018 season between the Blue Jays and Indians.

The Braves now must figure out what to do about the cleanup spot in the batting order, which looks different without Donaldson hitting behind Freddie Freeman. It could be an outfielder, or it could be another third baseman, although the Braves do have Johan Camargo, the 2018 starter at third base, and young Austin Riley as internal candidates to take over at the hot corner.

Free agent outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Nick Castellanos are still on the market. The Braves were linked to the 29-year-old Ozuna earlier in the offseason. Ozuna hit 29 home runs with the Cardinals last season and has averaged 28 home runs over the last four seasons.

Castellanos, who turns 28 in two months, hit 27 home runs last season between the Tigers and the Cubs and averaged almost 24 home runs in the last four seasons. Both Ozuna and Castellanos are right-handed hitters and both players have had trouble defensively in the outfield.

The Braves have been rumored to be interested in two star third basemen – Chicago’s Kris Bryant and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado. Bryant is waiting on a ruling as to whether he becomes a free agent after 2020 or 2021, and it’s unlikely the Braves or any other team would trade for him before knowing how long Bryant would be under control.

Rumors are growing louder by the day that the Rockies are interested in trading Arenado and starting over. Arenado has a long-term contract through the 2026 season, but he has an opt out clause after 2021, so he could only be under control for two seasons – just like Bryant.

Would the Braves spend part of their rich farm system on a star slugger who could only be in Atlanta for two years, especially after letting Donaldson go after one year? Well, both the Cubs and Rockies would likely want to pull from the Braves’ prospect list in a deal for one of their star players.

An Arenado deal, for example, would likely cost one of the Braves top position player prospects – Riley or outfielders Cristian Pache or Drew Waters, along with one of the Braves’ top pitching prospects – Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson or Ian Anderson. Outfielder Ender Inciarte and starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz could also be involved in trade discussions for an expensive player considering their contracts.

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Comments (2)
No. 1-2

Will miss the "Bringer of Rain" immensely.... BUT...time to get Arenado at the expense of anyone but Ian Anderson, Waters, or Pache. The other prospects can be replaced. And losing Enciartii's bat would not be a strain Though losing his defense might). Folty has shown too much inconsistency as well. If a club wanted him, I'd let him in the deal.

Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy

Carmargo looked like he could be a 25/90 guy heading into last year and then he regressed as a part time player. Riley got found out after a monster start, so hopefully he can adjust. Atlanta didn't need to spend that kind of money on Donaldson, but I'm glad he was here a year. Fun to watch.