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Donaldson did 'what was right for me'

Star 3B loved year with Braves but is excited for future with Twins
@mlbbowman
March 11, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson appears quite content with his decision to sign a four-year, $92 million deal with the Twins in January. But the veteran third baseman remains somewhat surprised the Braves were not more aggressive in their attempt to keep him in Atlanta. “I was a little

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson appears quite content with his decision to sign a four-year, $92 million deal with the Twins in January. But the veteran third baseman remains somewhat surprised the Braves were not more aggressive in their attempt to keep him in Atlanta.

“I was a little surprised in how it worked,” Donaldson said. “[The Braves] obviously had a game plan. I can’t comment on what their game plan was because I don’t know. At the end of the day, I know they have guys who are very capable of playing third base. So, I had the understanding to a certain point of either signing me or going [in] a different direction. That’s OK. That’s the game we’re in.”

There didn’t seem to be any hard feelings in Donaldson's words or actions before the Twins lost 3-2 to the Braves on Wednesday at Hammond Stadium. This was his first chance to reunite with many of the Atlanta coaches and teammates he developed a strong bond with while spending the 2019 season with the Braves.

“This is what it’s all about, the fabric of baseball,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “The greatest thing about this game is the relationships.”

There was mutual interest in extending the relationship. The Braves won a second straight National League East title with the assistance of Donaldson, who contributed Gold Glove Award-caliber defense and MVP Award-caliber production while hitting 37 homers with a .900 OPS.

Donaldson has said the Braves did not make a serious offer until late in the process. Multiple sources have said Atlanta never increased the offer it made during the holiday season. At that point, some insiders considered the Nationals the favorites to sign Donaldson.

But the Twins were the only club that satisfied Donaldson’s financial demands. The deal includes an $8 million buyout of a $16 million club option for a fifth year.

Before signing, Donaldson stayed true to his word and gave the Braves a chance to at least match the offer. But Atlanta was not willing to increase what it offered in December. Financial specifics have not been provided by either side, but the four-year offer was believed to be worth less than $88 million.

The Braves had sustainability concerns about Donaldson, who missed significant time in 2017 and ’18 with injuries to both calf muscles. There were also payroll concerns. Freddie Freeman will likely receive a lucrative extension within the next year. Mike Soroka and Max Fried will probably start drawing seven-digit salaries when they become arbitration-eligible after the '20 season.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies might be considered bargains. But beginning in 2022, their combined salaries will still start accounting for at least $20 million.

What felt right for Donaldson was to maximize his financial potential by accepting the Twins’ offer. What felt right for the Braves was to protect their long-term interests while fighting the urge to extend immediate satisfaction.

Four years from now, the Braves and Donaldson will know whether they made the right choice. But regardless of what transpires, these parties will forever share the strong bond formed during what proved to be a mutually beneficial season in Atlanta.

“I learned so much from him, just from the way you go about the game and the passion that he has for the game,” Fried said. “He’s always been really nice and great to me. I’m really happy he was able to get what he deserved. We also know we have something really good here, too.”

“[The Braves] are going to be just fine where they’re at right now,” Donaldson said. “I knew they were going to have that capability to go out, compete and win again. So, for me, I had to make sure I was doing what was right for me and my family.”

What felt right for Donaldson was to maximize his financial potential by accepting the Twins’ offer. What felt right for the Braves was to protect their long-term interests while fighting the urge to extend immediate satisfaction.

Four years from now, the Braves and Donaldson will know whether they made the right choice. But regardless of what transpires, these parties will forever share the strong bond formed during what proved to be a mutually beneficial season in Atlanta.

“I learned so much from him, just from the way you go about the game and the passion that he has for the game,” Fried said. “He’s always been really nice and great to me. I’m really happy he was able to get what he deserved. We also know we have something really good here, too.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.