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 turned 34 on Dec. 8.
Donaldson picks Twins' four-year deal
Jan. 15: Donaldson agreed to a four-year deal with Minnesota with $92 million guaranteed, including an $8 million buyout of a $16 million club option for a fifth year, sources told MLB.com. That gives the Twins the impact addition they have sought on the free agent market all offseason following their run to an American League Central title in 2019. The news was first reported by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
The club has not confirmed the deal.
Who is the favorite to land Donaldson?
Jan. 14: The Braves, Twins and Nationals remain connected to Josh Donaldson, as all three clubs have put four-year offers on the table for the veteran free-agent slugger. But it's been two weeks of waiting since word of that news was reported, and Donaldson continues to sit on the open market.
"The wait continues ... for Donaldson," MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi said in a Tuesday appearance on MLB Network's Hot Stove program. "The expectation in the industry still is that he ends up going back to Atlanta."
That outcome might be considered most likely at this point, especially in the wake of the Twins signing Miguel Sanó to a three-year extension and the Nats bringing in infielders Starlin Castro, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Eric Thames to provide depth at the corners.
There is, however, some overlap with Donaldson's market and that of trade rumors swirling around the Rockies' Nolan Arenado, another star third baseman and one who is "really attractive for the long term," as Morosi pointed out.
In other words, it seems that the recent spike in Arenado speculation could be causing something of a slowdown in the third-base market -- perhaps including Donaldson suitors, like the Braves -- as teams adjust their priorities and focus on the Rockies third baseman.
What Frazier's deal with Rangers means for Donaldson, Arenado
Jan. 12: The Rangers are in agreement with veteran slugger Todd Frazier on a one-year, $5 million deal with a club option for 2021, pending a physical, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
The 34-year-old could fill a big hole at the hot corner for Texas, which missed out on free agent Anthony Rendon, the club's top target at the outset of the offseason. It also could have ramifications on the third-base market, including free agent Josh Donaldson and Rockies star Nolan Arenado.
The Rangers will "continue their efforts" to trade for Arenado, sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. The Frazier signing, then, would seem to give the Rangers -- who are not necessarily viewed as the favorite to land Arenado as of now, per Morosi -- protection in case those discussions fizzle out.
Removing Frazier from the open market also takes away one more alternative for the three frontrunners to sign Donaldson -- the Braves, Nationals and Twins -- and teams hoping to pry Arenado away from the Rockies.
Pablo Sandoval, 33, is now the most prominent free-agent third baseman left after Donaldson, with Frazier off the board. Sunday's news could spur action in both the Donaldson and Arenado sweepstakes.
Nats 'never out on anything,' but how much do they need Donaldson?
Jan. 11: Along with the Braves and Twins, the defending champs are one of three teams to have made a four-year offer to Josh Donaldson, who remains the top name on the open market. The Nationals have been linked to Donaldson ever since Anthony Rendon -- their former superstar third baseman -- landed with the Angels for $245 million.
But just how much of a need do the Nats have at the hot corner?
Either of Asdrúbal Cabrera or Starlin Castro -- two recent signings -- as well as 22-year-old Carter Kieboom -- the club’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- could handle the position in 2020. In other words, the club has options.
"We don’t see it as a hole," GM Mike Rizzo said. "We see it as a strength."
"The Nationals may not have a steadfast second and third baseman by Opening Day," MLB.com's Zachary Silver wrote,"but by rotating a cast, they think they can get their older veterans more days off while not seeing a drop in production." That cast also includes postseason hero Howie Kendrick, who re-signed this offseason to fill a similar utility infielder role.
That said, when it comes to Donaldson, Rizzo did admit at least this much at the team's annual Winterfest event Saturday: "We're never out on anything."
Could Dodgers jump back in on Donaldson?
Jan. 9: Although Donaldson has received four-year offers from three teams (Braves, Nationals, Twins), the market for the veteran third baseman has reached a standstill. That could give the Dodgers an opening to jump back into the mix, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal writes in an article for The Athletic (subscription required).
To this point, Los Angeles' biggest additions this offseason are Blake Treinen and Jimmy Nelson. The club also has explored trades for superstars Francisco Lindor and Mookie Betts, but a deal for either player remains unlikely.
"President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman almost certainly would not want to offer four years, but if all other options fail, what alternative will he have?" Rosenthal writes.
Rosenthal previously noted that Donaldson was holding out for a team to offer him $110 million. However, based on recent reports, Washington might be the only club close to that mark. According to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, some industry sources have expressed doubt that the Braves have come close to making the top offer for Donaldson, and SKOR North's Darren Wolfson gets the sense that the Twins' offer is closer to the $80 million to $85 million range.
Meanwhile, the Nats' additions of infielders Starlin Castro, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Eric Thames make it unlikely they'll increase their offer from a reported $100 million over four years. Moreover, Washington is known to utilize deferrals in its big-money contracts, lowering the present-day value of the deal. It's unclear if the team's offer for Donaldson includes deferred money, but it would explain why the third baseman has been willing to wait for something better.
Twins still in on Donaldson, but may not have highest offer
Jan. 8: It's been widely reported since the start of the new year that the Twins are one of three teams, along with the Braves and Nationals, to have made a four-year offer to Josh Donaldson. The wait for a resolution, however, continues to drag on.
Minnesota is still in on the free-agent third baseman, but the club also is keeping its options open and exploring trade talks as an "alternate solution," according to Dan Hayes of The Athletic (subscription required). In other words, the Twins are doing their due diligence in case Donaldson -- who reportedly is seeking to reach the $110 million mark -- does not make a decision soon.
That said, Donaldson does appear to be their top priority at the moment.
"I am told Donaldson had a very productive conversation with [Twins manager] Rocco Baldelli," according to Darren Wolfson of SKOR North. "But here would be the headline: As of today, the Twins do not have the biggest financial offer on the table. Could that change? It could."
With MLB.com's Mark Bowman reporting Tuesday that there's doubt the Braves have come close to making "what stands as the top offer," it raises the question of which club, exactly, has the highest bid on the table. Could it be the Nationals, perhaps with some salary deferred (one of their typical tactics), even after the team recently added free agents Starlin Castro, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Eric Thames and Will Harris?
Another factor for Donaldson, per Wolfson, may be that the 34-year-old sees the appeal of facing some of the pitching in the AL Central, where the Royals and Tigers are rebuilding. Compare that to the alternative if Donaldson were to return to the Braves or sign with the Nats. He again would be going up against the elite arms in the NL East, including (deep breath): Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin of the defending champs; the Braves' young starters led by Mike Soroka; the Mets' Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman; and Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler of the Phillies.
Where do Nats, Twins and Braves stand in Donaldson race?
Jan. 7: Despite adding free agents Asdrúbal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Will Harris, Daniel Hudson and Eric Thames since the calendar flipped to 2020, the Nationals still are interested in signing Donaldson, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.
However, the club has shown no indication it is willing to get into a bidding war, Britt Ghiroli wrote in an article for The Athletic (subscription required). That means Washington's current offer -- reported to be around $100 million over four years -- might be its best and final offer.
The door is wide open for the Braves to swoop in and re-sign the 34-year-old, who produced 37 homers, 94 RBIs and a .900 OPS after signing a one-year, $23 million deal with Atlanta last offseason.
It has been reported that Donaldson would choose Atlanta if the offers he received were similar. And yet, he remains unsigned. The belief, per MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, is that Donaldson has been waiting for a team to offer him $110 million. But the Braves might be willing to wait out the market, knowing that they are unlikely to get outbid by the Nats following Washington's recent infield additions.
In fact, "some industry sources doubt the Braves have come close to making what stands as the top offer," MLB.com's Mark Bowman wrote Tuesday.
As for the Twins, they can't be overlooked. Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported last week that the club had grown "pessimistic" about its chances of landing Donaldson, but it appears to be a fluid situation. There has been regular dialogue between the two sides, per SKOR North's Darren Wolfson, who gets no sense that Minnesota has made its final offer.
What do Nats' depth moves mean for Donaldson's D.C. chances?
Jan. 6: The Nationals keep adding infielders … but none of them are Donaldson.
As one of the three teams to extend four-year offers to the star third baseman -- along with the Braves and Twins -- the Nats looked like they were set up in a three-horse race to land Donaldson. But will they be content with all their mid-tier moves over a big splash?
On Monday, Washington agreed to a one-year deal with lefty slugging first baseman Eric Thames. They already brought back Howie Kendrick, and brought in Starlin Castro and Asdrúbal Cabrera. And on top of all that, they have top prospect Carter Kieboom ready to go.
That's a lot of infielders. It's a lot of corner infielders. And it's a lot of potential third basemen.
With Trea Turner locked in at shortstop, the Nationals have five candidates for three infield positions, with Castro, Cabrera and Kendrick the likeliest third basemen among them -- but MLB Network insider Jon Heyman tweeted on Monday that the club is leaving its offer to Donaldson on the table. Though Heyman added that the Braves are seen as the "likely favorite" to sign Donaldson, he said the Nats and Twins both remain interested.
Are Braves the Donaldson favorites over Nats, Twins?
Jan. 4: What was shaping up to be a three-team race for Donaldson could be narrowing fast.
The Nationals, Twins and Braves are the three clubs to offer Donaldson a four-year deal, sources confirmed to MLB.com. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Donaldson has been waiting for a team to meet his asking price, which is believed to be in the $110 million range, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.
But the circumstances in Washington and Minnesota might be knocks against those teams' chances of landing Donaldson. Maybe that makes an Atlanta reunion the likeliest scenario.
The Nationals' offer is still on the table, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman has heard. But given Washington's latest additions, the Nats substantially raising that offer seems less likely. The team added Asdrúbal Cabrera on a one-year deal Saturday, per MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, one day after reportedly agreeing to a two-year contract with Starlin Castro.
With Howie Kendrick, Castro and Cabrera on the roster, the Nats have a number of veterans capable of playing third base. Washington also has top prospect Carter Kieboom (MLB's No. 20 overall prospect) waiting in the wings. The team has also explored a trade for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant as well, but those talks haven't gained traction.
The Twins are still pursuing Donaldson, according to a report Saturday from the Star Tribune's Phil Miller, but they aren't as optimistic about their chances as they were before. While the Twins' four-year offer to Donaldson is believed to be worth over $20 million a year, the team has also started exploring alternatives.
Citing sources familiar with the negotiations, Miller writes that Donaldson hasn't seemed to be interested in signing with Minnesota. But he also notes that neither Donaldson nor his agent, Dan Lozano, have said anything discounting the Twins as a destination.
Nats remain in Donaldson sweepstakes; is it a race to $110 million?
Jan. 3: The Nationals reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with free-agent infielder Starlin Castro, but don't count them out for Donaldson just yet. In reporting the Castro deal, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal notes that the move does not take Washington out of the Donaldson sweepstakes.
In a follow-up column for The Athletic (subscription required), Rosenthal reports that Donaldson is "simply waiting for one of the clubs to hit his number," believed to be in the $110 million range. The Nationals, Braves and Twins have all reportedly extended four-year offers in the neighborhood of $100 million to Donaldson, and so this could come down to a race for who offers that extra money to the superstar first. With no Donaldson-caliber alternative left in the free-agent third baseman market, Rosenthal notes that Donaldson is in position to wait as long as he needs to in order to get the contract he desires.
Nats willing to go four years for Donaldson?
Jan. 1: The World Series champion Nationals have a big vacancy to fill at third base after Anthony Rendon signed with the Angels earlier this offseason. Donaldson is the only remaining star third baseman on the free-agent market, and a source has confirmed to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that Washington has made a four-year offer to the 34-year-old slugger. Meanwhile, a source has confirmed to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that the Braves and Twins also have four-year offers on the table for Donaldson. The Dodgers are reportedly in the mix as well.
Donaldson had a bounce-back season with Atlanta in 2019, posting a .900 OPS with 37 home runs after an injury-shortened campaign in '18 during which his numbers were subpar based on his standards. His camp has reportedly told the Braves he will give them a final opportunity if he finds an offer to his liking from another club.
The Rockies' Nolan Arenado and the Cubs' Kris Bryant have been rumored to be available on the trade market, but a deal for Arenado appears unlikely given the type of return that would be required and his option to opt out of his contract after the 2021 season, and it remains unclear whether the Cubs would actually trade Bryant, whose case has its own complications with a pending grievance filed that will determine whether he has one or two years of team control remaining.