The Atlanta Braves still wanted Josh Donaldson; they just got to a point where they didn’t want him as much as the Twins did.
We don’t know – and may never know – the size of the offer that the Atlanta Braves set before the Twins new third baseman, but there are a couple of things that seem pretty clear about this saga:
- The Braves truly wanted Josh Donaldson back – and thought they were in the chase to the very end.
- The Braves thought their offer – though less than that of the Twins – was going to be enough to win.
How do we know this? Mostly by logic mixed with a bit of reading between the lines.
All accounts continued to say ‘Josh Donaldson prefers to return to Atlanta’ throughout the entire process - until he didn’t. If that was really the case (and there was truly no reason to doubt it), then it explains the Braves holding firm for the entire duration.
There were concerns, no doubt: as of the Winter Meetings it was believed that Atlanta was among those offering just 3 years to the former MVP.
Sometime between then and the end of the year, they made a fairly large concession in raising that to a 4th year. It is almost certain that they only did this because they had to to stay in the bidding… which also indicated their desire to bring him back.
One by one, the other suitors peeled off: some, like the Dodgers or Cardinals, seemed a bit lukewarm to the whole idea at all. Others like the Rangers apparently scoffed at even the 3-year level, and became spectators to the drama as well.
In early January, the Nationals suddenly turned and opted to sign virtually every available veteran infielder (and the better remaining relievers, too) in a move that signaled to everyone but the National (singular) baseball writers that they were giving up and filling out their team without Donaldson.
That left just the Twins and Braves. And the Twins remained stubborn.