5 teams affected by Donaldson going to Twins
Josh Donaldson immediately makes the Minnesota Twins not just better, but definitely more enjoyable to watch over the next four years. That team is going to hit so many home runs.
When healthy, Donaldson is one of the very best players in the Majors, and it’s always excellent to see players like him playing in places like Minnesota. That lineup now goes Jorge Polanco-Nelson Cruz-Donaldson-Eddie Rosario right through the middle, and that’s with Miguel Sanó, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton hanging around. This also allows Sanó to move to first base, where he probably should be, and let’s Marwin Gonzalez return to the super-utility role he is best suited for. The Twins stepped up, and that’s exciting.
But the Twins, of course, aren’t the only team that will feel the ramifications of their aggressive maneuver. As always, a signing as big as this one has ramifications around the Majors. Here’s a look at the five teams most affected by Donaldson signing with the Twins.
1. Atlanta Braves
Obviously, the team that won the National League East but just lost maybe its best all-around player last year is going to suffer some ramifications. The Braves were hopeful they could keep Donaldson -- and he clearly had some interest in staying -- but those who have accused the Braves of not having what it takes to win bidding wars for top-tier free agents have more arrows in their quiver today. The team is obviously worse without Donaldson, not least of which the fact that its cleanup hitter right now might be … Travis d'Arnaud? And its third-base replacement is … Austin Riley?
The Braves saved considerable cash with their long-term deals with Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies (not to mention Freddie Freeman, for that matter), but they chose not to reinvest those savings in Donaldson moving forward. The question is whether there’s another move they have left to fill that cleanup/third-base hole. They look a lot less imposing if they don’t, right? Which leads us to …
2. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have been waiting on two external factors to resolve themselves before they figure out whether or not they will trade Kris Bryant: where Donaldson signed (thus narrowing down their trade partners) and how Bryant’s service time grievance ends up. Right now, Bryant is scheduled to be a free agent following the 2021 season, but that could be pushed up to after this season depending on how the hearing pans out.
Depending on how the grievance is eventually settled, you can be sure that the Cubs are going to be on the phone with any team that missed out on Donaldson post-haste. The Braves seem sure to be on that list, and potentially an ideal partner, considering the depth of their farm system. If you’re the Cubs, and you’re insistent on trading Bryant (which I’d argue they shouldn’t be), you’re probably happy the Braves (who have better prospects than the Twins) didn’t get Donaldson. But either way: When the grievance is at last resolved, the Cubs will have a better idea of whom they’ll be talking to about Bryant, how many years of team control he’ll have left … and how badly those teams will need him.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
So for those of you keeping score at home, the Dodgers -- one of baseball’s signature franchises, one with massive financial advantages, a storied history and a fanbase desperate for a World Series title -- have now missed out on Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Donaldson this offseason. And they obviously had some interest in Rendon and Donaldson; they did talk to Justin Turner about moving to first base, after all.
The Dodgers’ inability (or lack of desire, take your pick) to bring in a big, outside free agent is becoming one of the more intriguing subplots in the sport, and one that’s going to continue to fester until they nail one down or, you know, win the World Series. Does this make them more likely to push for a Mookie Betts trade? Or a Bryant one? Or do they let ride for another season? That’s not the worst idea, of course: They’re still heavy favorites to win the NL West. But Dodgers fans are losing patience. It’s difficult to blame them.
4. Cleveland Indians
Those hopes of muddling through a mediocre American League Central to sneak out one more division title are looking a little dimmer today, aren’t they? The Royals and Tigers are still going to be reliable win-providers, but the White Sox are loading up and now the Twins have added an MVP Award candidate for the next four years to a team that already won 101 games in 2019. If the Indians fall behind the Twins and/or the White Sox early this year, that sure expedites their decision-making process.
Can the Indians, with Francisco Lindor trade rumors surrounding their every move, really hang with a Twins team that just added Donaldson? The first two months of the season for Cleveland are already pivotal. The Twins just ratcheted up the stakes considerably.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
You can also include the Mets and the Nationals here, because they are also relieved that Donaldson isn’t a part of their division anymore. The Braves look decidedly less imposing without him in their lineup, which provides more of an opening for all the teams chasing them down. Of course, all three teams theoretically could have added Donaldson to their lineups, had they wanted to, and are lesser because they didn’t.
The Phillies, in particular, could have used a stud third baseman; right now, Scott Kingery, who’s probably better served playing all over the diamond, is slated for that spot. Of all the teams in the NL East, the Phils -- who, remember, haven’t made the postseason since 2011 -- probably have the most urgency to win right now, and third base is a reminder their lineup (and their rotation, for that matter) still has some holes. But they don’t have to deal with Donaldson anymore. At least that helps.