With Anthony Rendon going to California, one star third baseman remains on the market. Should the Braves pay up to bring Josh Donaldson back and leave the Nats reeling?
Anthony Rendon has signed a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. This leaves the defending National League East Champions - the Atlanta Braves - and the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals in a desperate scramble for the one remaining star free-agent third sacker.
Early reports were that Josh Donaldson, 34, would wait until Rendon signed in order to get that fourth year on his contract. The demand is still very high for a stud third baseman and the supply of free agents has been reduced to one.
Remaining teams reportedly attempting to sign the slugging former Braves' third baseman per Jon Heyman:
If that is true, this leaves one man and three teams. The Atlanta Braves, Nationals, and Rangers. The Braves have a chance to keep a level playing field with the Nationals by bringing Donaldson back.
Despite signing Stephen Strasburg to a massive contract, that merely prevented them from losing a key piece from a World Series Championship team. Now that Rendon is gone, their incentive to sign Donaldson is sky-high as he is near the same level of elite third basemen.
This also gives them a chance to take offensive production away from the Braves and add it to their lineup - that's a lose/lose scenario for Atlanta.
In order to win the Donaldson sweepstakes, the fourth year sounds like required reading before Donaldson puts pen to paper (do you think they still put a pen to paper or do they use e-signature now? Finger-to-screen doesn't flow as well).
Is a four-year deal too much for a 34-year-old?
3 less-than-ideal scenarios are looming:
Scenario One: The Nationals sign Donaldson and prepare to defend their World's Championship while the Braves have Austin Riley as Opening Day third baseman. I'm not disparaging Riley, I love the kid and think he has a ton of potential. In fact, you can read an entire three-page article I wrote about the benefits of Austin Riley as our everyday third baseman here.
Scenario Two: The Nationals sign Donaldson and the Braves are forced to give up the farm for Kris Bryant. This is not such a bad option but we could lose Ender Inciarte and some top prospects in addition to paying Bryant $18.5 million this season. Bryant's contract is up after the 2021 season.
The third scenario is where the Rangers sign Donaldson and leave both NL-East teams scrambling for a third baseman.
Here are a few reasons the Atlanta Braves should offer Donaldson the fourth year.
- Donaldson would provide long-term stability at third with a four-year contract.
- $25 million doesn't seem like such a bad price when you see Kevin Gausman getting $9 million from the Giants.
- Signing Donaldson won't cost us Inciarte and a potential future star (the prospects it would take to get Bryant for two years).
- Revenue is trending up for the Braves, they need to continue to put out a winning team with star power. Donaldson ingratiated himself to fans as a top star in Atlanta with his great defense, fiery spirit, and umbrella toting ways. He's a star that will keep the bodies moving through the turnstiles.
- The DH is coming to the NL. It's not official yet, but it's coming and it's coming soon. As Donaldson is nearing the age where it gets hard to bend over and pick up a ground ball, the DH can help keep an aging slugger fresh and keep him dropping bombs.
- Signing Donaldson gives the Braves an advantage over the Nationals in 2020.
I say throw the guy a bone, or four of them. If the Nationals get Donaldson then we will become desperate. Desperate teams overpay in trades for short-term fixes. If Anthopoulos chooses not to overpay, we start the season with a big question mark at third base.
Securing Donaldson will put the question-marks on the Nationals. They will become a desperate team. On paper, they will have taken a step back while the Braves keep on stepping forward. I say show JD the money and get your umbrellas ready.
What do you think? Are four years too much for a 34-year-old Josh Donaldson? Let us know in the comments below!