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The latest Donaldson free-agent rumors

MLB.com

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.

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.

A one-year 'make-good' contract for Donaldson with the Twins?
Nov. 15: ESPN 1500's Touch 'Em All Podcast featured a discussion Thursday about whether the Twins should make a run at free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson. The signing of Donaldson would mean Minnesota could move Miguel Sano to first, and if Donaldson remains healthy and returns to form in 2019, that could mean a vast improvement in production from the hot corner.

"He's only 32, he's only three years removed from an MVP season ... Josh Donaldson on a 'make-good' one- or two-year contract ... I think if you strike out on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, I think if you were to bring in Josh Donaldson, move Miguel Sano to first base and/or DH, and Tyler Austin and Miguel Sano could fight over first base and DH, and if you put a bona fide -- if he's healthy -- bona fide, solidified, stud player at that position, that makes it a lot easier to stomach the Twins' lineup going in[to '19]."

Donaldson was the AL MVP in '15, but was limited to 52 games last season due to injury. Between the Blue Jays and Indians, to whom he was traded in August, Donaldson hit .246/.352/.449 with eight home runs. The season prior, he belted 33 homers in just 113 games for Toronto.

Would a Corbin/Donaldson duo be a better buy than Harper? 
Nov. 14: The Phillies and the Cardinals placed first and second on MLB.com's list of teams that are ready to spend big this offseason, with Richard Justice noting that both clubs would be a great fit for Bryce Harper. But Justice also mentions a potential alternative for both teams -- signing Patrick Corbin and Josh Donaldson.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman projects Harper will sign for $330 million over 11 years, giving him an average annual value of $30 million. Agent Scott Boras is believed to be asking for upwards of $400 million, and there's a good chance Harper will end up making at least $35 million per year.

Per Heyman's projections, the Corbin/Donaldson duo would cost $38 million on average, with Corbin landing a five-year contract for $100 million and Donaldson signing for $36 million over two seasons.

There are risk factors associated with both approaches, but signing Corbin and Donaldson may have more short-term upside than using that money on Harper alone. Corbin was worth 6.3 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2018, per FanGraphs, while Donaldson averaged 6.9 WAR per season from 2013-17. If the Phils or Cards got the best versions of Corbin and Donaldson, it could put them over the top in their respective divisions.

Donaldson ranked fourth-best FA by Sporting News
Nov. 13: Donaldson isn't necessarily in the free-agent echelon of, say, Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but outside those two, might he be the best position player available? Ryan Fagan of Sporting News argues as much, saying that behind Harper, Machado and left-handed starter Patrick Corbin, Donaldson is the best free agent available in a list of 79 ranked. 

Donaldson will turn 33 next month and was limited to 52 games last year with a left calf strain, which has prompted speculation that the veteran third baseman will take a "pillow contract" -- one on a shorter term for a higher average annual value, or one laden with incentives. Fagan suggests that in his assessment of Donaldson, saying that the 2015 American League MVP Award winner offers more upside than uncertainty. 

"Maybe [the No. 4 ranking] is a bit high for a guy with injury issues the past couple of years, but he's worth the risk on a short-term (if he's betting on himself) or incentive-laden contract," Fagan writes. 

Video: DET@CLE: Donaldson launches 1st homer for the Indians

Donaldson might offer the most hit-or-miss potential among the top tier of position players available in the free-agent market. But as many have pointed out, should he even approach a level of his elite form, Donaldson would make a lot of sense for teams looking to contend immediately. 

In a separate piece, Fagan directly compares Donaldson to Mike Moustakas, the other top free-agent third baseman (given that Machado is being courted as a shortstop), saying that, while Moustakas has clubbed 66 homers the last two years and played solid defense, which should garner multiyear offers, Donaldson has the edge between the two.

"Donaldson's worth the risk," Fagan writes, "as long as the contract doesn't have insane money/years guarantees."

Phillies could look to Donaldson, Moustakas for upgrade at third
Nov. 12: MLB.com's Todd Zolecki notes that Phillies third basemen ranked 18th in the Majors in batting (.248), 21st in on-base percentage (.311), and 13th in slugging percentage (.438) last season. Will the club upgrade at third base? That may depend on whether they sign one of the two big superstar sluggers on the market, Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

"If they sign Harper, they might be more inclined to pursue help at third," Zolecki writes. "If they sign Machado and he plays shortstop, they might be more inclined to move forward with internal options like J.P. Crawford, Maikel Franco and even Scott Kingery, who could play second base if Philadelphia trades Cesar Hernandez."

Zolecki suggests the Phillies may pursue free agents Josh Donaldson or Mike Moustakas. He writes that they would likely try to ink Donaldson to a short-term deal given the risk involved; he was hurt for most of last season, and was not as productive as in years past when he was in the lineup.

Will Donaldson headline Cardinals' offseason pursuits?
Nov. 12: The Cardinals may pursue free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson to upgrade their offense, but Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues that the veteran comes with too much uncertainty to be relied upon as the club's marquee addition this offseason.

Donaldson has a lofty ceiling, as he slashed .285/.387/.559 with 111 homers from 2015-17, winning the American League MVP Award in the first year during that span.

But Donaldson will turn 33 years old in December and is coming off a season in which he played just 52 games due to right shoulder and left calf injuries.

Although Frederickson thinks Donaldson would be well-received by the fan base as St. Louis' new starting third baseman, he writes that it "would seem a bit thin" if the slugger was "the Cardinals' sole big move for the lineup."

Donaldson could be courted by as many as 10 teams
Nov. 9: While Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel predictably received plenty of attention at the General Managers Meetings this week, many others also drew significant buzz, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. Among them was Josh Donaldson, who could be a free-agent bargain after playing just 52 games during an injury-plagued 2018 season.

Not long ago, Donaldson was considered one of the top players in all of baseball. The third baseman won the AL MVP Award in 2015, and he's only one year removed from producing 33 homers and a .944 OPS in 113 games.

Per Feinsand, more than a half-dozen teams are expected to make a run at Donaldson, with as many as 10 clubs potentially in the mix.

In an article for The Athletic (subscription required), former MLB general manager Jim Bowden lists the Cardinals, Rays, Rangers, Phillies, Padres and Cubs as potential landing spots for the third baseman, who will turn 33 in December.

With Zunino in tow, Rays could pursue Donaldson, Cruz
Nov. 8: Now that the Rays addressed their glaring need for a catcher by acquiring Mike Zunino from the Mariners, they could be an interesting destination for one of the big bats on the free-agent market this winter. Two names to watch: Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson.

According to Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic (subscription required), Tampa Bay has more payroll flexibility this offseason than in years past. That could put them in position to pursue an impact right-handed hitter -- to go along with newcomer Zunino, who also provides pop from the right side -- as they try to build on their surprise success from this past season.

The Rays surged down the stretch and finished with a 90-72 record. One rival general manager told Rosenthal that even if they might have overachieved in 2018, their young talent and depth, both in the Majors and Minors, is a good sign for the future.

If they think they can contend in 2019, adding a hitter like Cruz or Donaldson could provide a major power boost to the lineup, and might not even break the bank. Cruz has averaged 41 homers over the last five seasons, but he's 38 years old and essentially a designated hitter only.

Donaldson has a ton of upside, one of the game's elite players just a couple of seasons ago, but the 32-year-old third baseman was plagued by injuries this year and didn't pick up his form until the very end of the season after his trade to the Indians.

Does the reward outweigh the risk for Donaldson's suitors?
Nov. 6: Few free agents could be more boom or bust this offseason than Josh Donaldson.

His advancing age (33 in December) and ongoing calf and shoulder injury issues (165 games played across 2017-18) make Donaldson something of a gamble for teams interested in inking him to a multi-year deal. He's also only three seasons removed from winning the AL MVP and was one of the most durable and very best all-around players in the sport from 2013-16 before the aforementioned injuries undercut his playing time and production.

So what can be expected from the slugging third baseman in 2019 and beyond? And which teams could be a good fit for him?

MLB.com's Mike Petriello digs into Donaldson's free agency, highlighting both the potential production and the possible pitfalls, while also mentioning a handful of clubs that might make sense, including the Phillies, Cardinals, Braves, Mets and Angels.

Can Donaldson be the impact player he was not too long ago? "Basically, this is going to come down to health," Petriello writes. "Donaldson does, however, have the highest offensive ceiling of anyone available outside of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and he's shown it recently." More >

Josh Donaldson