7:52pm: MLB.com’s Mark Bowman looks at the situation from the Braves’ standpoint, reporting that there’s some doubt that the Braves have even “come close” to making the top offer to Donaldson.
Similarly, Darren Wolfson of 1500 SKOR North radio in Minneapolis reported today that while the Twins are still in the mix and have made a four-year offer, they’re not believed to be close to Donaldson’s reported $110MM asking price, either (Twitter links). The Twins don’t have the largest offer on the table, per Wolfson, who suggests that Minnesota could be in the $85MM range while cautioning that they’ve not yet been asked for a final offer. The two sides remain in “near-daily” communication.
That pair of reports at least implies that the Nationals might have made the biggest offer, although that’s strictly reading between the lines in speculative fashion. It’s worth noting, of course, that the Nationals have a tendency to bake deferred money into their contract offers, which weighs down the present-day value of said offers. Plus, with their recent bevy of infield signings, there’s a bit less urgency to add another option to the pile — even if Donaldson is easily the best of the bunch.
Today’s reports on Donaldson at least cast some doubt as to just how close — if at all — he’ll be able to get to his reported $110MM asking price. It’s clear that there are multiple staring contests underway at present, and the revelation that Donaldson’s camp hasn’t asked for final offers doesn’t exactly suggest that a resolution is imminent.
7:00am: Even after a run of free agent additions that plug quite a few holes with veteran players, the Nationals do not appear to be shutting the door on top remaining open market star Josh Donaldson — at least, not entirely. The Nats could still make the third baseman fit, but evidently won’t be the team that ups its bid to land him.
After agreeing to terms with Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Eric Thames, and with youngster Carter Kieboom waiting in the wings, the Nats could in theory have bailed out of the Donaldson auction altogether. But that assembly of pieces hardly makes up for the departure of Anthony Rendon. And the D.C. organization surely doesn’t wish to allow the division-rival Braves a chance at retaining Donaldson without paying full price (and then some) to do so.
After yesterday’s reported deal with Thames, the Nationals remain “in the picture,” Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (via Twitter). Indeed, the club is “leaving [its] offer on [the] table,” Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports on Twitter. Precisely how that offer matches up to others isn’t known with specificity — reports had suggested the Nats, Braves, and Twins were in the same $100MM ballpark — but it surely helps Donaldson’s cause to keep that avenue open.
Donaldson had been said to be dangling bait to interested teams, indicating he’d sign with the first club to meet an asking price in the vicinity of $110MM. Unless something changes, it seems the Nats won’t take the hook. It remains to be seen whether some other team will. Likewise, unless the defending World Series champs withdraw their bid, the Braves, Twins, and any other pursuers (Dodgers? Rangers? mystery team(s)?) will presumably need to meet or top that number to get a deal done.
There certainly may be some momentum towards a return to Atlanta. The Nationals are at minimum preparing to move forward without Donaldson. The Twins’ hopes are said to be dimming. And it’s largely unclear whether any other team has or will engage Donaldon’s reps in earnest. Numerous observers have cast the Braves as favorites, though as ever it’s inadvisable to view free agent matchmaking as a metaphorical horse race or political contest. Market circumstances can turn on a dime.