Josh Donaldson has battled injuries in recent years, but his track record of MVP-level production should make him a coveted free agent nonetheless this offseason.
Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the third baseman.
Rosenthal: Braves reach an agreement with Donaldson
Nov. 26: The Braves are on the verge of the first big-name free-agent signing of the Hot Stove season, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports they have a one-year, $23 million agreement in place with third baseman Josh Donaldson.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that the two sides were "moving toward" a deal.
MLB Network Radio host and former Mets general manager Steve Phillips pointed out that the history between Donaldson and Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos might be a factor in the former American League MVP's decision to join Atlanta on a short-term deal to help the Braves in 2019 while also rebuilding his value and returning to the free-agent market again next year.
Donaldson's market could be delayed by Machado
Nov. 23: Although they primarily played different positions in 2018, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson could be closely connected this offseason.
Machado is being marketed as a shortstop, which makes Donaldson arguably the most attractive free-agent option for teams strictly seeking a third baseman. But if Machado expresses a willingness to move back to the hot corner, it could cause Donaldson's market to slow, perhaps by design.
As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out, Machado and Donaldson are both represented by the same agent, Dan Lozano.
Per Goold, Lozano could sell Machado as a third baseman to teams in need of one, and position Donaldson as a fallback option for the clubs that miss out. However, that means Donaldson would need to wait until Machado's situation is resolved before the veteran slugger can decide on a new team.
Fans predict overwhelming favorite for Donaldson's destination
Nov. 23: The Cardinals could use a power bat in the middle of the lineup, and an upgrade at third base would allow them to stop playing Matt Carpenter there and start moving Jedd Gyorko around the diamond more consistently. Roster-wise, St. Louis makes sense as a fit for Josh Donaldson, and readers at MLB Trade Rumors agreed, with a majority of readers predicting that the former American League Most Valuable Player Award winner will sign with the Cardinals.
While Manny Machado, of course, remains on the market, he hasn't been tied to the Cardinals and would likely need to be open to a move back to third base, with Paul DeJong one year removed from a runner-up finish in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting despite a sophomore slump in 2018. But St. Louis hasn't been able to lure top free agents in the recent past despite the funds to do so, and Machado's interest from the deep-pocketed Yankees and Phillies, among other teams, will likely drive his price up.
That makes Donaldson an appealing option if the Cardinals are willing to take a risk on his injury history for a chance at his MVP-caliber upside. He had a .920 OPS for the Indians in 16 games following his trade in 2018 and had a .944 mark in 113 games a year earlier -- higher than his .939 clip during his 2015 AL MVP campaign. The soon-to-be 33-year-old is much more likely to agree to a shorter-term deal while still offering a significant upgrade in the lineup.
Is Donaldson a reasonable approximation of Harper?
Nov. 21: The top tier of free agents this offseason will command hefty contracts. But Michael Baumann of The Ringer lists three players in what he considers the second tier, who would be potential high-value signings for a relatively low cost. One of them is third baseman Josh Donaldson, who Baumann writes is a reasonable approximation of superstar outfielder Bryce Harper.
"Since 2015, when Harper and Donaldson both won MVP awards, Harper is hitting .283/.410/.543," Baumann writes. "Donaldson, even with that 2018 season he'd rather write off, is hitting .281/.383/.548 at a tougher defensive position."
Baumann adds that with Harper expected by MLB Trade Rumors to command a deal in the neighborhood of 14 years and $420 million, Donaldson is predicted to receive a one-year, $20 million contract. That would be relatively cheap if Donaldson returns to his MVP form following an injury-plagued season.
The other two free agents Baumann highlights are super-utility player Marwin Gonzalez (an approximation of Manny Machado) and veteran right-hander Charlie Morton (an approximation of Patrick Corbin).
Thin third-base market could benefit Donaldson
Nov. 20:Adrián Beltré announced his retirement Tuesday morning after a Hall of Fame-worthy career, leaving one fewer third baseman on the free-agent market.
However, this may not affect the market all that much, as Beltre was expected by many to re-sign with the Rangers if he didn't retire. Texas can plug in Jurickson Profar at the hot corner, so the club probably won't immediately jump into the mix for a free-agent replacement.
That said, having one less viable alternative out there certainly isn't a negative for Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas, the top two free-agent third basemen not named Manny Machado.
With Beltre retiring and Eduardo Escobar and Jung Ho Kang re-signing with their respective teams, the best free-agent third baseman behind Machado, Donaldson and Moustakas is Chase Headley, at least in terms of 2018 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Headley, 34, wasn't signed after being released by the Padres in May, and he finished 2018 with -0.4 WAR, per FanGraphs.
Machado is also being courted as a shortstop, and only a select number of teams can afford his contract demands, so many of the clubs that need a third baseman may have only two realistic options: Donaldson or Moustakas.
Although he played just 52 games during an injury-plagued season and is nearly three years older than Moustakas, Donaldson is clearly the higher-ceiling option of the two. Donaldson won an American League MVP Award in 2015 and has recorded 36.5 WAR over 883 career games. Moustakas, meanwhile, has posted 13.2 WAR in 988 games.