The Dodgers have been rumored by the LA Times to be in on third baseman Josh Donaldson, a former AL MVP and consistent All-Star.
Los Angeles’ front office has not been known to spend big on free agents, and yet this offseason may be different, thanks to rumors of Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole being big targets for the Dodgers.
But in order to avoid a spending spree, Donaldson could be the perfect compromise. He brings a lot to the roster, beyond simply eliminating the need for the $300+ million that Rendon or Cole would certainly need.
Before any of you write off Donaldson, let’s look into his 2019 resurgence. First of all, he’s not actually that old. He’ll be 34 years old heading into the 2020 season, which really is fine, especially because he likely won’t require anything more than a two-year deal for around $40-$45 million after he made $23 million with the Atlanta Braves on a one-year deal last season.
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But really, the on-field numbers are more important than his age. And those numbers paint him in quite a positive light. Fangraphs had Donaldson at a 4.9 WAR in 2019, his best season since his 5.1 WAR season with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017. Last season, to compile all that WAR, Donaldson hit 37 home runs with 190 runs+RBI with a .259/.379/.521 triple-slash line. He even made a positive contribution on defense for the NL East champions, as he had his best defensive runs saved season since 2014 with the Oakland Athletics.
He really is a stud, and a veteran right-handed bat with plenty of power and defensive skill. He is not a long-term worry like Rendon would be, even though he is likely to put up vaguely similar numbers in the power department while being no slouch at the hot corner.
Along with his payroll flexibility and overall skill as a ballplayer, he really just fits in with what the Dodgers need and with how the front office likes to operate.
The Dodgers need a right-handed power bat that has experience slotting into the middle of a lineup against tough pitching. Plus, he’s experienced in the postseason; since becoming a full-time major leaguer in 2012, he has only missed the postseason once (2017).
Donaldson was only one of 12 right-handed hitters to hit 37 or more home runs in 2019. Plus, the 6’1 slugger had a top-40 wRC+ and ISO amongst qualified right-handed hitters last season. He really is one of the premier righty bats in the game today, and he plays better defense at a more important position to the Dodgers than Nicolas Castellanos (2.8 WAR in 2019) or any other notable right-handed-hitting free agent outside of Rendon.
With Donaldson manning third base, with the capability of playing 1,200+ innings and 150+ games at the hot corner at a high level, Justin Turner can begin to transition to first base, allowing Max Muncy to play second base and allowing Gavin Lux to more slowly transition into a major role with the club.
Ultimately, Donaldson would be a reasonable signing for all of the same reasons as Rendon at a fraction of the cost, while not forcing the Dodgers to lose out on the right-handed power bat they so desperately need to balance the order.