Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Braves want to add at third base. Cue Donaldson?

November 19, 2019

After being limited to just 52 games with the Blue Jays and Indians in an injury plagued 2018, Josh Donaldson signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the Braves and re-established his value ahead of another go at free agency. He is tied to Draft-pick compensation if he signs with

After being limited to just 52 games with the Blue Jays and Indians in an injury plagued 2018, Josh Donaldson signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the Braves and re-established his value ahead of another go at free agency. He is tied to Draft-pick compensation if he signs with a new team after being one of 10 players to receive the $17.8 million qualifying offer.

Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the third baseman, who turns 34 in December.

Third base is a priority for Atlanta

Nov. 19: Braves' general manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke with reporters Tuesday after the team introduced new addition Will Smith. He did not directly address Donaldson -- the club's third baseman last season -- but did say the Braves plan to acquire someone to handle the hot corner, in one way or another.

"I think the best way for me to answer that, without getting real specific, is we're still looking at trying to do something at third base," Anthopoulos said. "We like [Johan] Camargo. We like [Austin] Riley. But whether it's inconsistencies with performance, health, things like that, we're still going to look to add at third base one way or the other. A lot of good players out there, and we're going [to] try to see if we can get something done." More >

Is Moose a more likely target for Philadelphia than Donaldson?

Nov. 17: Maikel Franco had another disappointing season in 2019, and Alec Bohm (MLB Pipeline's No. 34 overall prospect) is still developing in the Minors, making third base an area of need for the Phillies this offseason.

Fortunately for Philadelphia, third base is one of the strongest positions in free agency this year, with Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson and Moustakas on the market. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury, Moustakas is "very much on the Phillies' radar." The Phils have checked in on Donaldson as well, reports MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Either would represent a major upgrade for Philadelphia, but is one more likely than the other? Perhaps.

It will likely take a longer contract with a higher average annual value to sign Donaldson, limiting the Phillies' flexibility to make other major additions this offseason and potentially blocking Bohm at third base at least through 2022.

There's also the qualifying-offer factor. Donaldson received one from Atlanta and rejected it, meaning the Phils would need to surrender their second-highest selection in the 2020 MLB Draft as well as $500,000 from their international bonus pool to sign him.

The Phillies also need rotation help, and several of the top free-agent starters -- including Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner -- rejected qualifying offers. Signing one of these hurlers in addition to Donaldson would cost Philadelphia its third-highest Draft pick as well.

The Phillies won't need to forfeit a Draft pick to sign Moustakas, and his expected cost would leave plenty of room in the budget to add a big-name arm to their rotation.

These teams already have shown interest in Donaldson

Nov. 15: One position that has quite a bit of talent and depth in the free-agent market is third base, courtesy of Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas.

So the hot-corner supply is there for now. What about demand?

"Myriad teams, including the Nationals, Phillies, Braves, Rangers and Dodgers, are seeking help at third base," MLB.com's Mark Feinsand wrote, adding that all five of those clubs already have shown interest in Donaldson, specifically.

It's no secret why, of course: The 2015 AL MVP showed in 2019 that he still has plenty of thump in his bat (37 HR, .521 SLG), high-end plate discipline (15.2 percent walk rate) and an above-average glove at the hot corner (15 defensive runs saved).

And if you want a deep and detailed dive into how Donaldson restored his free-agent value in his one year with the Braves, MLB.com's Daniel Kramer has it covered. More >

With QO out of the way, Donaldson targeting multiyear pact

Nov. 14: Donaldson's decision to decline the qualifying offer -- worth $17.8 million for one year -- was a mere formality, especially after his hugely productive and healthy 2019 campaign with the Braves.

So what's in store for the soon-to-be 33-year-old former AL MVP as he embarks on what's surely to be a more successful foray into free agency than last year, when he had to settle for a one-year, $23 million deal from Atlanta following an injury marred '18?

"Donaldson will certainly receive at least a two-year offer worth approximately $25 million per year that would include an option for 2022," MLB.com's Mark Bowman wrote on the third baseman's potential next contract. "But when you account for the expected demand, it seems wiser to predict that he is likely to end up with a guaranteed three-year offer. If a four-year offer is made, it would likely come from an AL club, which could account for the option of occasionally using him as a designated hitter to preserve his legs and possibly extend optimal output."

Teams to express interest in or be a fit for Donaldson include the Rangers, Dodgers and maybe the Nationals, if fellow free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon (who also declined the QO, as expected) chooses not to return to Washington.

At least 7 teams interested in Donaldson

Nov. 13: The Rangers are among the teams interested in Josh Donaldson, but a report that Texas is making “an aggressive push” to sign the free-agent third baseman is not accurate, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

While sources say this year’s market for him already consists of at least seven teams, including the Rangers, Nationals, Braves, Phillies and Dodgers, there’s no indication that any of them have separated themselves from the pack to this point.

After signing a one-year, $23 million contract with Atlanta last November, Donaldson hit 37 home runs with a .900 OPS in 2019, setting the 33-year-old up for a multi-year payday.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, the Braves would like to retain Donaldson but haven't yet engaged him in talks about a multi-year contract. Perhaps Atlanta is waiting for Thursday's 5 p.m. ET deadline for Donaldson to either accept or reject the team's one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer.

Donaldson's name gaining momentum, more than six teams interested

Nov. 12: One name on the free agent market that's already starting to gain momentum is Josh Donaldson. He already has more than half a dozen teams interested, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. Those teams include the Rangers, Phillies, Braves and Nationals. The free agent market features two strong third basemen in Donaldson and Anthony Rendon, who is perceived to be the best position player available in free agency. According to Feinsand, though, one executive noted that teams might not want to wait on Rendon, who is represented by Scott Boras -- an agent who has known to be deliberate -- and may instead want to make a decision sooner with a player like Donaldson.

“If a team is worried that waiting for Rendon could mean they get neither of them, they could make a move for Donaldson,” the executive said.

It's worth noting that Donaldson signed his one-year deal with the Braves for 2019 on Nov. 26 last year, one of the first Major League free agents to ink a deal last winter. It's unknown if he will sign as quickly this offseason.

These teams could look to Donaldson, Moose if Rendon gets too expensive

Nov. 10: With the GM Meetings happening this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., it’s fair to expect that we’ll start to hear more about how the market will shape up this winter. Third base is one of the strongest areas in this year’s market, and Anthony Rendon could be the domino to set the rest of it in motion, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand writes.

Rendon is considered by many to be the top position player available in this year’s free agent class, and he should garner a contract north of $200 million. Feinsand posits that the Nationals, Rangers, Phillies, Braves and Angels could all be in play for Rendon, but Donaldson and Mike Moustakas loom as viable fallback options if Rendon proves to be too expensive.

As ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Friday, Philadelphia and Texas already have checked in on Donaldson. Atlanta will likely remain engaged on Donaldson's market if the 33-year-old rejects the club's one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer, as he is expected to do.

Don't forget about the "D" in Donaldson

Nov. 7: Donaldson had a big bounce-back year at the plate with the Braves after he was limited by injury in 2018. But don't forget about his defensive prowess. According to Mark Simon in an article for The Athletic, Donaldson's defense puts him in some great company, even though he's not quite at a Nolan Arenado or Matt Chapman level.

"Donaldson is still valuable as a guy who can steal doubles by making nice plays on balls hit down the third-base line," writes Simon, who also notes that Donaldson finished behind only Arenado and Chapman in defensive runs saved among third basemen in 2019. "At some point, these skills will diminish, but for now, a team signing Donaldson is getting one of the very best defensive third basemen in baseball."

If Nats move on from Rendon, is Donaldson headed to D.C.?

Nov. 6: With the distinct possibility that Anthony Rendon will not be in a Nationals uniform next season, particularly after he had a great regular season and then a strong postseason in the final year of his contract with Washington, could fellow free agent Donaldson be a prime target for the defending World Series champions?

Donaldson, who will be entering his age-34 season -- had a great bounce-back campaign on a one-year deal with the Braves after being limited in 2018 by injury. He posted a .900 OPS (127 OPS+) with 37 home runs for Atlanta. Jim Bowden, in an article for The Athletic, writes he could see Washington "making a run" at him this offseason.

Why Donaldson may be more likely target for Rangers than Rendon

Nov. 4: Given Anthony Rendon's ties to Texas and the Rangers' need for a third baseman, the two sides seem like a logical fit. However, the club may be more likely to pursue one of the other options on the market.

According to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, the Rangers are not interested in giving out a free-agent deal longer than five years. Rendon could command a contract similar to the seven-year, $260 million pact Nolan Arenado signed with the Rockies last offseason.

For that reason, the Rangers view Donaldson as a more attractive option, Sullivan writes, even though he is more than four years older than Rendon. Donaldson earned $23 million on a one-year contract with the Braves in 2019. After a strong bounceback season, the 2015 American League MVP Award winner could command up to four years on the open market. Atlanta extended a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer to Donaldson on Monday and is expected to make a push to re-sign him once he inevitably rejects the QO.

Could Braves pursue Grandal-Donaldson FA windfall?

Nov. 1: If re-signing Donaldson is priority No. 1 for the Braves this offseason, addressing the catcher spot might be No. 2. Brian McCann retired, Francisco Cervelli is a free agent and Tyler Flowers has a $6 million club option with a $2 million buyout.

David O'Brien of The Athletic suggests Atlanta could go after the top catcher on the market, Grandal, even if the club picks up Flowers' option.

The Braves just selected a catcher, Shea Langeliers, with the ninth overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, so they would likely prefer to do a shorter contract with Grandal, who made $16 million with the Brewers this past season, plus an additional $2.25 million from the buyout on his 2020 mutual option.

After playing on a one-year contract, Grandal will likely be seeking a lucrative long-term deal this offseason, but O'Brien wonders if a two-year pact with a high average-annual value could be enough to bring him to Atlanta.

Grandal accepted that one-year contract after reportedly turning down a four-year, $60 million offer from the Mets. The veteran backstop otherwise had a lukewarm market for a number of reasons, including the Draft-pick compensation requirement attached to him after he rejected a qualifying offer from the Dodgers. Grandal is ineligible for the qualifying offer this offseason, so he may have more suitors.

O'Brien thinks the Braves could land Donaldson and Grandal, provided they can keep the average annual value of Donaldson's deal below $30 million, and then trade for a frontline starting pitcher, presumably using some of their excellent prospect depth. The team could free up some money by declining Julio Teheran's $12 million club option ($1 million buyout), or by picking it up and trading him.

Is adding big-name third baseman part of Phillies' offseason plans?

Oct. 30: On Tuesday, Matt Gelb reported in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) that the Phillies were proceeding with two sets of offseason plans -- one with the assumption of signing Gerrit Cole and one without.

While the rotation is Philadelphia's most pressing area of need, the club also could use an upgrade at third base, so it's fair to wonder if the team's non-Cole plans include Rendon.

The Phillies were a suitor for the top two free agents on the market last offseason, ultimately signing Bryce Harper for $330 million over 13 years, while Manny Machado went to the Padres on a 10-year, $300 million deal. Could history repeat itself, with Philadelphia acquiring another Nats All-Star?

Phillies third basemen have posted a collective 92 wRC+ over the past two seasons, ranking 21st in the Majors. Scott Kingery had a solid sophomore campaign in 2019 (101 wRC+, 2.7 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement), but the Phils may prefer to keep him in a utility role. Maikel Franco, meanwhile, is a non-tender candidate.

Cole and Rendon are both represented by agent Scott Boras, who has shown a willingness to wait out the market to get his clients the best contracts. As Gelb points out, navigating the offseason could be more difficult for the Phillies than it was a year ago, when they were able to address other positions while keeping right field and third base open as they simultaneously courted Harper and Machado. If Cole signs late, like Harper and Machado did, many of the top alternative starting pitcher options could be off the market, leaving Philadelphia in a vulnerable situation.

It might be less risky for the club to sign two veteran starters and then target Rendon as the centerpiece of its offseason. But if Cole is the Phillies' preferred choice among the top two free agents, the team could address its third-base situation by signing Josh Donaldson or Mike Moustakas earlier in the offseason and then making an all-out push for the ace righty.

Will Braves go all out to bring back Donaldson?

Oct. 29: The Braves' decision to sign Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million contract last offseason worked out for both sides, as the third baseman re-established his value after an injury-plagued 2018 season and helped the Braves win their second straight National League East title in a division that had four teams finish .500 or better. But the veteran performed so well that he is now in line for a lucrative multiyear deal, even at age 33 (soon to be 34).

As MLB Network insider Jon Heyman noted in a tweet on Tuesday, the Braves will try to re-sign Donaldson. However, MLB.com's Mark Bowman thinks it may take a four-year deal, or at least a three-year pact for $70 million to $75 million with an attainable fourth-year option.

Since the 2013 offseason, the Braves have signed only one free agent -- Nick Markakis in December 2014 (four years, $44 million) -- for three-plus years and $10 million or more in average annual value.

Granted, Atlanta is in a much different position than it was earlier in the decade, as the team now has World Series aspirations. But with no designated-hitter spot available, it would be risky for any National League team to give Donaldson three years.

The Braves do have some options if they decide to move on from Donaldson, the primary one being Austin Riley taking over at third base at some point next year. With Donaldson entrenched at the hot corner, Riley made the majority of his appearances in left field as a rookie.

In a Q&A session with David O'Brien of The Athletic (subscription required) back in August, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos didn't rule out a Donaldson return, making it clear that there is room for both Donaldson and Riley. But the GM also said he expects Donaldson to draw plenty of outside interest in free agency.

"I mean, it’s about winning games," Anthopoulos said. "It’s about being a real good team. Now, if we saw Austin Riley couldn’t play the outfield, if he just failed, then we’d have an issue. But he’s a good outfielder, and in my opinion, he’s just going to get better. And I think he’s a good third baseman who’s going to continue to get better. So there’s clearly room for both guys; we can see a team with both guys. We’re better with both guys. Problem is, one guy’s a free agent. And I expect the market for him to be strong because of the year that he’s had and what he’s done."

If the Braves go forward with Riley at third base, they could fill their open corner-outfield spot with top prospect Cristian Pache (MLB's No. 11 overall prospect) or Markakis, who has a $6 million club option ($2M buyout) for 2020. Atlanta also could re-sign Matt Joyce or add another lefty bat to platoon with righty slugger Adam Duvall.

Riley, though, is a risky option in his own right. The young slugger started off hot after making his MLB debut in May, but a lack of plate discipline caught up to him. Over his final 123 plate appearances, Riley hit .150/.203/.292 with four home runs, 52 strikeouts and eight walks. The 22-year-old is expected to open 2020 in the Minors, though that could change if he shows improvement during Spring Training.

Age, qualifying offer could slow Donaldson's market

Oct. 24: After signing a one-year, $23 million "pillow" contract with the Braves last offseason on the heels of an injury-plagued 2018 campaign, Donaldson rebuilt his value with a stellar '19 showing that could have teams lining up to sign him.

That said, there are some factors that could slow his market, as MLB.com's Mark Feinsand wrote Thursday when he looked at this year's most divisive free agents.

The biggest knock on him is his age, as he is set to turn 34 in December. Donaldson is also virtually guaranteed to receive a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer from Atlanta, and he's just as likely to decline it, which means other teams would need to forfeit one or more Draft picks to sign him.

“The qualifying offer makes it tricky,” an American League executive said. “There will be a market for him, but that QO might impact him because of his age. Most teams will look for a two-year deal, though an AL team could go three with the DH in play. It only takes one team.”

In addition to the Braves, teams that could consider Donaldson may include the Angels, Cardinals, Nationals (if they lose Anthony Rendon in free agency), Phillies and Rangers.

With Carpenter's regression, could Cards pursue Donaldson?

Oct. 16: With their moves last offseason to trade for and lock up Paul Goldschmidt and then sign Matt Carpenter to an extension, the Cardinals seemingly had their corner-infield spots settled for at least a few years. But Carpenter's production fell off a cliff in 2019, as the veteran posted a 91 OPS+ after recording a 131 mark from 2012-18. He also became a defensive liability at the hot corner, and he ended up getting just 17 plate appearances over St. Louis' nine postseason games as he ceded playing time to Tommy Edman.

After the Cards were swept by the Nationals in the National League Championship Series, resolving the third-base situation is one of the offseason questions the team will need to answer, as Dave Schoenfield wrote for ESPN+ (subscription required) on Wednesday.

The market will have a number of attractive third-base options, and St. Louis may need to replace a key middle-of-the-order bat if left fielder Marcell Ozuna departs as a free agent. Could the Cardinals go after Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson?

The club usually isn't a big player at the top of the free-agent market, which may rule out Rendon, but Donaldson could be a fit. The veteran was mentioned as a potential target for St. Louis last year before he signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the Braves in late November. The Cardinals acquired Goldschmidt soon after, bumping Carpenter to third-base to fill their hot-corner vacancy.

That said, signing Donaldson would make Carpenter an expensive bench bat, as he is owed $37 million over the 2020-21 seasons, and the Cardinals already have a defensively limited player in José Martínez coming off the bench.

The Cards seem more likely to invest in the rotation, with Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha headed for free agency and Carlos Martínez potentially remaining in the bullpen after a successful run as the team's closer. Even if St. Louis brings back Wainwright, Schoenfield suggests it could pursue a veteran starter such as Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler or Hyun-Jin Ryu, with Gerrit Cole probably out of their price range.

Donaldson set to test market

Oct. 10: With the Braves being eliminated by Wednesday's loss in Game 5 of the NLDS, veterans Josh Donaldson and Dallas Keuchel will now hit free agency for a second straight offseason.

Donaldson signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the Braves last November after an injury-riddled season limited him to just 52 games in 2018. The third baseman, who turns 34 in December, proved he still has plenty in the tank this season, posting a .900 OPS while racking up 37 homers and 94 RBIs over 155 games.

"We'll see," Donaldson said, when asked about his future following Atlanta's season-ending loss. "I enjoyed being here. I enjoyed my time here. I know this organization has a bright future ahead of it."

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos also weighed in on Donaldson's future Thursday in an end-of-season press conference, expressing some cautious optimism based on how the star's first season went in Atlanta.

"He fits us in every way we want," said Anthopoulos. "That being said, when we entered into this agreement with him, the hope was he would be in a position to rebuild his value. I believe we positioned ourselves that if all things are equal from a contractual standpoint -- I haven’t had this discussion with him or his agent -- but I believe this would be where he wants to be. I know he enjoyed it here. But it’s free agency, it’s not salary arbitration. So, there’s no way to tell. Your value is what that free-agent market will give, what the needs are and supply and demand." More >

How does Donaldson stack up to other impending FA third basemen?

Oct. 5: The upcoming class of free-agent third basemen projects to be a bit better than last offseason's, but Donaldson's stock is also higher than it was a year ago, when he signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the Braves.

With 4.9 fWAR in 2019, the veteran ranked 20th in MLB and seventh among those who played at least 50 percent of their games at third base.

Donaldson did that over 155 games, as he stayed healthy after playing only 55 games in 2018 and 113 the year before. Despite that workload, he got stronger in the latter stages of the season, recording a .958 OPS after the All-Star break, compared to an .854 mark before that.

Although Donaldson will turn 34 in December and is eligible to receive a qualifying offer -- unlike last offseason, when he was ineligible because he had been traded during the previous season -- he has set himself up for a lucrative multi-year contract.

While Anthony Rendon will be the top free-agent third baseman on the market, Donaldson may actually have a wider range of suitors, as he should command a shorter deal with a lower average annual value than Rendon.

And though teams will have other productive options to choose from -- such as Mike Moustakas (2.8 fWAR), Asdrubal Cabrera (1.9 fWAR) and Todd Frazier (1.9 fWAR) -- there's enough distance between Donaldson and the alternatives that he is unlikely to be negatively impacted by the surplus.

Donaldson collects another RBI in NLDS Game 2

Oct. 4: The Braves evened up the NLDS against the Cardinals with a 3-0 win in Game 2 on Friday, and as he did in Game 1, Donaldson got Atlanta on the board in the bottom of the first inning.

The third baseman is just 1-for-8 through the first two games of the series, but he has a pair of RBIs and a run scored.

Donaldson is surely hoping for a better postseason performance than he delivered for the Indians a year ago, when he went 1-for-11 with zero RBIs and four strikeouts as Cleveland was swept by the Astros in the ALDS. But even if he doesn't make a major impact the rest of the way, the 33-year-old is poised to land a multi-year contract in free agency this offseason after his strong regular season.

Upgrading third base is offseason priority for Rangers

Sept. 11: The retirement of Adrian Beltre left the Rangers with a significant void at third base, and the team has used six players at that spot to this point in 2019.

Manager Chris Woodward admitted that he's expecting the team to make upgrading the position a priority this offseason.

“It’s pretty big,” Woodward said of the team's need to address the hot corner. “I’m guessing we will be in pursuit of a third baseman. We’d like to not have rotating third basemen next year.”

According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Rangers scouts have been closely following Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson lately.

Rendon was born in Houston and attended Rice University, so he's an obvious fit, but as Grant writes, the team may also pursue right-hander Gerrit Cole and is unlikely to make more than one long-term commitment of that magnitude. Signing Donaldson instead of Rendon would likely give the club more flexibility to improve other parts of the roster.