After back-to-back injury-limited seasons divided between Toronto and Cleveland, former AL MVP Josh Donaldson settled for a short-term contract in free agency last winter. Donaldson accepted the Braves’ one-year, $23MM offer in hopes of a bounce-back campaign that would propel him to a larger deal this offseason. That’ll likely come to fruition in a couple months for Donaldson, who has enjoyed a healthy and excellent year for an Atlanta team that’s close to locking up the National League East.
The playoff-bound Braves will vie for a championship in October, but no matter how their season ends, it stands to reason they’ll attempt to re-sign Donaldson. General manager Alex Anthopoulos suggested last month the Braves would gladly welcome him back, while Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote Wednesday they “would love” to keep Donaldson in the fold. Donaldson, meanwhile, seems to have a similar affinity for the Braves.
“I’ve enjoyed playing here every day,” Donaldson told Burns of his time in Atlanta. “And I look forward to playing in this uniform as long as I can.”
Based on the comments Anthopoulos and Donaldson have made, it’s fair to say the two sides have mutual interest in continuing their partnership. However, it’ll likely take a much greater financial commitment from the team in order to bring Donaldson back. Even though Donaldson doesn’t have youth on his side (he’ll turn 34 in December), he should still be able to land at least a two- to three-year contract worth upward of $20MM per annum in the offseason. After all, Donaldson has reestablished himself as a force this season with a .258/.378/.526 line, 37 home runs and 5.7 bWAR/4.7 fWAR in 632 plate appearances.
Thanks to his 2019 production, Donaldson may well end up as the game’s second-best position player on the open market, trailing only Nationals MVP candidate Anthony Rendon. Teams that need help at third base but can’t or don’t want to pay Rendon nine figures (perhaps around $150MM or more) could look to Donaldson as an appealing and much less costly alternative. If Donaldson cashes in elsewhere, the Braves will have a ready-made replacement in third baseman/outfielder Austin Riley. They still figure to be among the most ardent bidders for Donaldson, though, and it should help their cause that he seems more than willing to stay put.