The Josh Donaldson free-agency derby came to a long-awaited end Wednesday when the star third baseman agreed to a four-year, $92MM contract with the Twins. Previous reports indicated Donaldson’s preference was to re-sign with the Braves, with whom he thrived in 2019, but it doesn’t appear they made a spirited attempt to retain the 34-year-old.
Asked by Alison Mastrangelo of WSB-TV whether Atlanta made him a “competitive” offer, Donaldson said, “No, I mean, they ended up offering me late, like a day or so before.” Donaldson went on to state that he “really enjoyed” his one-year stint with the Braves, whom he called “a good fit for me,” and added that it was “a dream come true to be able to play there.”
Details of Atlanta’s offer to the former MVP are unclear. Regardless, the loss of Donaldson is an enormous blow to the Braves, who are now tasked with replacing one of the foremost players in the game at a time when free-agent choices have greatly decreased. Donaldson was among the Braves’ premier players in 2019, their second straight NL East-winning season, and there’s essentially no way to fill his void via the open market even if the club signs one of the two best bats available in outfielders Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna.
For one, neither Castellanos nor Ozuna is in Donaldson’s stratosphere. Furthermore, signing one of the two would still leave the Braves devoid of a high-end option at third base, where they’re currently projected to rely on Johan Camargo and Austin Riley. There are answers on the trade market in the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado and the Cubs’ Kris Bryant – players capable of replicating or bettering Donaldson’s 2019 production – but it doesn’t seem the Braves are prepared to swing a deal for either of them.
Besides the fallout from baseball’s much-publicized sign-stealing fiasco, the Braves’ 3B situation stands as one of the game’s most interesting storylines as spring training nears. They still boast a very talented roster, yet they’re unquestionably weaker after failing to pony up for Donaldson. General manager Alex Anthopoulos is now likely at work to find a hitter with the ability to help make up for Donaldson’s loss, but it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll pull it off before the season begins.