On the surface, this may have looked like a tough year for Josh Donaldson to hit free agency. Pitchers such as Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg were the biggest names while fellow third baseman Anthony Rendon was primed to get a big deal as well.
But when the dust settled, and all three of those other free agents signed, Donaldson landed on his feet. He recently signed with the Minnesota Twins, departing from the Atlanta Braves. The move has a chance to be the most important of the offseason. Here’s why.
Josh Donaldson’s career overview
The 34-year-old Donaldson has had a stellar career so far. He’s played for Oakland, Toronto, Cleveland, and Atlanta. At every stop, his career offensive statistics remained steady:
- 44.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) level
- 1,048 hits
- 219 home runs
- .273 batting average
- 652 runs scored
- 645 RBIs
- .369 on-base percentage
- .509 slugging percentage
Donaldson’s best season came in Toronto in 2015. He led the league in RBIs (123) and runs scored (122) with 41 home runs on his way to his first and only Most Valuable Player award. While he’s well into his mid-30’s, it appears as though Donaldson still has some gas left in the tank. Last year for Atlanta, he hit 37 home runs with 94 RBIs.
How Josh Donaldson’s move helps the Twins
Donaldson steps into a Minnesota lineup that didn’t need him — at least offensively. He’ll certainly be good for them to have, however. But where his real impact lies is on the defensive side. A Twins fan blog called Twinkie Town discussed how much of an upgrade Donaldson will be over last year’s third baseman, Miguel Sano:
“Adding a 5+ WAR player to the Twins lineup shows clear benefits on the offensive side. And while the eye test may say that Josh Donaldson is better defensive third baseman than Miguel Sano, the metrics also back up that statement in a big way.
Even with some age regression from Donaldson in 2019, his past defensive numbers indicate that he will provide 15-20 runs of defensive value for the Twins in 2020 in comparison to Sano.”
The best part for Minnesota? They won’t have to lose Sano’s bat. He can slide over to first base and stay a part of the lineup. Playing a much easier position means his poor defense will have less of a negative effect on the team.
Why Donaldson to the Twins is the biggest move of the offseason
Last postseason, the Twins struggled to score runs in the playoffs against the Yankees. In a seemingly annual ritual, Minnesota failed to put up much of a fight against New York in the playoffs. That said, the Twins hit more home runs than any team last season and had plenty of offensive firepower. Donaldson may help put them over the top. They can plug in yet another solid offensive contributor on a team already full of home run hitters. This move only strengthens their hold on the position of favorite in the AL Central.
Meanwhile, Donaldson’s glove and bat will be difficult for Atlanta to replace, particularly this late in the offseason. The Washington Nationals may have won the World Series last year, but many may forget that the Atlanta Braves were the best team in the NL East in 2019. They won the division despite faltering against St. Louis in the NLDS. Now a big part of their lineup and infield is gone.
In summary, Minnesota’s gain represents a tremendous loss for Atlanta. It will be interesting to see how much the Twins improve and how the Braves react to losing such a significant piece of their team.