After a lengthy and complicating matchmaking process, the Twins have reportedly come away with elite veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson. It’s a momentous occasion for the Minnesota organization, which is looking to fend off the Indians and White Sox to repeat as AL Central champ.
Though a big strike for Donaldson wasn’t necessarily the club’s very top choice, it became a priority when righty Zack Wheeler decided to head to the Phillies. The Donaldson contract is quite a different proposition in many regards: he’s an older position player, while Wheeler is a younger pitcher. But both players come with similar mixes of lofty ceilings and fairly significant risk factors. And they’ll play for generally equivalent money, with the far senior Donaldson receiving one less guranteed season.
Guaranteeing four years and $92MM to a 34-year-old player is virtually without precedent. As we recently explored, it’s an expansion of the commitments we’ve seen of late to other high-end older players. But the Twins are doing it with eyes wide open. And Donaldson is more than just a high-quality veteran.
If Donaldson can stay healthy and hold back father time just a bit, there’s good reason to hope for massive production. He posted a 132 wRC+ last year and will add yet more pop to an already potent lineup. And Donaldson was somewhere between good and excellent with the glove, depending upon whom you ask. That allows the Twins to unlock yet more value from this signing, as they’ll improve their overall glovework by shifting Miguel Sano over to first base.
That said, there’ll always be some level of trepidation regarding Donaldson’s age and recent history of leg issues. 34 in September, Donaldson may not have lost much to this point. But it’s tougher to overcome the physical ailments that do arise and we have seen plenty of players run into relatively steep declines. Of at least as much concern is the track record from the two seasons prior to his platform campaign. While he was healthy in, Donaldson was limited to 165 total contests over 2017-18 owing mostly to a lingering calf injury.
So … how do you grade this signing from the Twins’ perspective? (Poll link for app users.)