Donaldson, Twins agree to 4-year deal

January 22nd, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have their big-name signing.

Third baseman has 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. The deal was made official on Wednesday. It 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 contract is the second-largest in Major League history for a player 33 or older, trailing only Kevin Brown's seven-year, $105 million deal with the Dodgers in 1998. It blows away the Twins' previous record commitment to a free agent, which had been four years and $55 million to pitcher Ervin Santana before the 2015 season.

Donaldson declined the Braves’ qualifying offer and is tied to Draft-pick compensation, meaning the Twins will forfeit their third-round Draft pick in 2020 and Atlanta will receive a compensation pick after Competitive Balance Round B. Teams that receive revenue-sharing money, such as the Twins, lose their third-highest unprotected selection in the following year's Draft for signing a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer. Minnesota's Competitive Balance pick is protected.

The Twins were reportedly seeking a big-name addition to their starting rotation at the onset of the offseason, but Donaldson, the 2015 AL Most Valuable Player Award winner and a three-time All-Star at the hot corner, instead represents the strongest possible improvement in free agency to a Minnesota lineup that remained mostly intact after setting a Major League record with 307 homers last season.

Donaldson, 34, hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 homers and 33 doubles in a big bounceback campaign for the Braves last season, finishing eighth among National League position players with 6.1 WAR, per Baseball-Reference.

He has hit 33 or more homers in four of the last five seasons and should provide one of the Majors' most consistent power threats in the heart of the Twins' lineup alongside Nelson Cruz. Donaldson finished seventh among qualified Major League hitters in average exit velocity, 11th in hard-hit rate and 16th in barrel rate last season, according to Statcast.

Much like Cruz before him, Donaldson has also been historically successful in Minneapolis, as he boasts a career .373/.464/.819 batting line with 10 homers in 22 career games at Target Field, tied for the eighth-most long balls by any visiting hitter at the ballpark.

Signing Donaldson also means the Twins no longer have to face him. In 43 career games against Minnesota, Donaldson has hit a whopping .395/.487/.852 with 19 home runs and 46 RBIs over 191 plate appearances. His 1.339 OPS vs. the Twins is the highest by any player with at least 100 plate appearances against the franchise (including its years as the Washington Senators). Donaldson faced the Twins three times in 2019, going 4-for-9 with five walks.

Donaldson also gives the Twins a needed defensive boost in the infield, as he should immediately slot in at third base with a glove that was worth eight outs above average last season, per Statcast, ranking him third among all third basemen. That will move Miguel Sanó to first base after he also agreed to a three-year extension with the Twins on Tuesday. Sanó had been worth minus-three OAA at the hot corner.

Later in his contract, Donaldson could be the logical replacement for Cruz at designated hitter.

Donaldson's signing is the latest impact move in a busy offseason for the Twins, featuring the signings of Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Homer Bailey and Rich Hill to round out the starting rotation; backup catcher Alex Avila; and experienced bullpen arms in Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard. The Twins could still use additional rotation help, but they mitigated that need to some extent by adding the best available bat to one of the best run-producing lineups in baseball.

The Twins have now committed $134 million to free-agent acquisitions this offseason, according to Spotrac.