According to MLB insiders, All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson is seeking a deal for over $100 million and is willing to wait out the market.
As the calendar rolls over into 2020, third baseman Josh Donaldson is the only top, top-end free agent left to sign in this MLB offseason. If insider Ken Rosenthal is right, Donaldson just may be willing to wait even longer before putting his name on a new contract. That’s because the 34-year-old is seeking upwards of $110 million on a four-year deal.
Shooters, shoot, I suppose.
You can’t blame Donaldson for setting his asking price extremely high, but he may need to lower his expectations to actually make a deal happen. One thing is clear, the three-time All-Star is going to end up signing with the highest bidder. It makes sense for Donaldson to hold out for a maximum payday. Because he did not stick in the major leagues until the age of 26, his career earnings potential has been severely limited. This is his only shot at a huge deal.
At last check, there were still four teams involved in the bidding for Donaldson, but that may be changing. The Washington Nationals signed veteran infielders Starlin Castro and Asdrubal Cabrera this week, seemingly filling out their roster. A nine-figure deal with Donaldson would push the Nationals way past the luxury-tax threshold. Perhaps that’s something ownership is willing to consider coming off a World Series win, but billionaires are notoriously averse to paying taxes.
Having lost All-Star and MVP candidate Anthony Rendon, Washington seemed like a very logical landing spot for Donaldson. If the Nats are out, that leaves the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves as the two most realistic contenders to sign Donaldson. It seems safe to assume the Los Angeles Dodgers are not in on the third baseman at this elevated asking price.
Minnesota has never signed a free agent for more than $100 million, and probably shouldn’t break that rule for a 34-year-old who was injured in two of the last three years. Donaldson spent the 2019 season with the Braves and was a great fit in their lineup, but they have already had a busy offseason and are also not keen on paying out risky contracts to aging hitters.
If Donaldson is truly unwilling to sign for less than $100 million, he may be forced to wait until February to sign. He played only 165 games combined in 2017 and 2018, but did hit .262/.375/.525 with 41 home runs and 101 RBI. Donaldson hit .259/.379/.521 in his lone season with the Braves with 33 doubles, 37 home runs, 94 RBI and 100 walks. His age and injury history are working against him. Teams should not overlook the fact that he spent the first five years of his career catching in the minor leagues.
At some point in his career, Donaldson would have been a safe bet to be worth $27.5 million over the life of a four-year contract. Now, not so much. If, big if, he stays healthy and productive for all four years, Donaldson just might be worth $110 million. The odds, however, are stacked against a hard-charging third baseman continuing to put up peak numbers through his age-37 seasons. The better bet at this point for Donaldson may be to accept a three-year deal close to his desired annual salary with an attainable performance clause to trigger a fourth year.