The Brewers announced that they have selected the contract of third baseman Josh Donaldson. In corresponding moves, they have optioned infielder Owen Miller and transferred righty J.C. Mejía to the 60-day injured list.
Donaldson, 37, began the year with the Yankees but was released in August after a season of injuries and disappointing results. He went on the injured list this year due to a right hamstring strain and then a right calf strain, only playing 34 games for the Yanks. In that time, the results were all over the place. He got 15 hits in his 120 plate appearances but 10 of those were home runs. That led to a lopsided .142/.225/.434 batting line and wRC+ of 74.
The Yankees fell out of contention and wanted to give playing time to younger players, so they released Donaldson in August. The Brewers grabbed him on a minor league deal and sent him to get some work at Triple-A, essentially a rehab assignment for his calf strain. He played five games for Nashville and produced similarly odd results in that small sample, hitting two home runs but batting just .091.
The Brewers are hoping to find lightning in a bottle with Donaldson, who has a strong track record from previous seasons and could perhaps get some better fortune going forward. He had a tiny .076 batting average on balls in play with the Yankees earlier this year and a mark of .091 in his five games with the Sounds. Despite the poor results, his Statcast page still has plenty to like, including a 92.8 mph average exit velocity and 51.3% hard hit rate.
Donaldson also struggled last year but was above-average at the plate as recently as 2021, when he hit 26 home runs for the Twins and drew walks in 13.6% of his plate appearances. His .247/.352/.475 line that year amounted to a wRC+ of 126. His defense at third base has also continued to be graded well, even as his offensive results have waned since he joined the Yankees going into 2022. He produced seven Defensive Runs Saved and seven Outs Above Average last year and was average or above in his small sample this year.
Over the past couple of months, Andruw Monasterio has taken the lion’s share of playing time at third for the Brewers. He had some strong results earlier this year but has cooled off significantly, hitting .231/.297/.286 over the past month. Perhaps Donaldson will take some of his playing time as the club hopes that the veteran can get some better batted ball luck and get closer to his previous excellent form.
There will be no financial risk for them to give him this shot, as the Yankees are still on the hook for what remains of his contract. That means Milwaukee can just pay him the prorated version of the $720K league minimum for any time he spends on the roster, with that amount subtracted from what the Yankees are paying. By joining the organization prior to September 1, Donaldson will be able to play for the Brewers in the postseason.
As for Mejía, he’s been on the injured list since August 14 due to right shoulder inflammation. It’s unclear how long he’s expected to be sidelined by that injury but he’ll now be officially ineligible to return until 60 days from that initial placement on the injured list, which would be mid-October. His regular season is officially over and he likely won’t return to the club unless he gets healthy as they make a deep postseason run. He posted a 5.56 earned run average in nine appearances this year.