MLB

Which MLB teams are still in on Josh Donaldson and can any of them top the Nationals?

The market for Josh Donaldson has shrunk, with four teams remaining interested in the third baseman, but which one has the inside trade to signing him?

In a flurry of action at the close of the MLB Winter Meetings last week, Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon came off the board, leaving very few elite free agents left on the market.

Nearly every big domino has fallen, leaving All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson the premier big bat left unsigned. Free agency has unfolded much more quickly this year than in recent years, and Donaldson could come off the board at any time.

The market for Donaldson has centered on four teams, the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins. The Texas Rangers have fallen out of the bidding, while the Philadelphia Phillies are a longshot given how close they are to the luxury tax. Each of these four remaining teams can afford to meet Donaldson’s demand for a four-year deal, likely in the range of $80-90 million. Will any of them be willing to go to a fifth year or push his contract to nine figures?

After two injury-plagued seasons, Donaldson bounced back in a big way in 2019, his first season with the Braves. The 34-year-old hit .259/.379/.521 with 33 doubles, 37 home runs, 94 RBI and 100 walks. He also played elite defense at the hot corner. Entering his age-34 season, Donaldson is a career .273/.369/.509 hitter with 219 home runs and 645 RBI in nine MLB seasons.

Donaldson is getting older and approaching the end of his prime, so there will be a fair amount of risk that comes with his contract. For the teams bidding, that will be outweighed by the hope that he can continue producing elite offensive numbers for at least two more seasons. Donaldson will have a chance to win a World Series with whichever team he signs with, so he can make his decision based strictly on the financials. The Nationals may be leading the market at this point, but it’s still anyone’s game, so let’s break down where the Donaldson market stands right now.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – OCTOBER 07: Miguel Sano #22 of the Minnesota Twins turns a double play against the New York Yankees to end the seventh inning in game three of the American League Division Series at Target Field on October 07, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

4. Minnesota Twins

The Twins were the biggest surprise in the league last year, coming from nowhere to win 101 games and the AL Central title. As is tradition, they were eliminated in the ALDS by the New York Yankees, but their stock is trending upward exponentially heading into 2020. The Twins are ascending at the perfect time, as the Cleveland Indians begin facing the end of their championship window and start auctioning off their best players instead of paying them.

Despite a lack of household names, the Twins had the second-best offense in the league last year. Their 307 home runs set a new MLB single-season record, led by five players who hit over 30 and eight who hit at least 20. There’s still room for improvement and an opening after C.J. Cron was non-tendered after hitting 25 home runs in 125 games.

Donaldson is a fit for the Twins, who could then move lumbering Miguel Sano off third base. Their offense and defense would improve dramatically. If the Twins have the money to spend, then there’s no reason they can’t make a convincing argument to Donaldson that Minnesota is where he will win his first World Series ring. The Twins have their seat at the negotiating table, but will likely be outgunned by the bigger-market teams when it comes down to brass tacks.

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