Having put together one of their most successful seasons in recent memory, the Atlanta Braves rode the offensive – and defensive – skills of third baseman Josh Donaldson to the National League East Divisional title and a trip to the playoffs. While having fallen short in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals, both Donaldson and his teammates helped put a very successful team on the field each and every game, one that has a high likelihood of returning most of its core pieces.
According to Jon Heyman, the Braves are looking to resign Donaldson this offseason, and even though the odds are high that he declines their Qualifying Offer, the interest is real between both sides to come together on a long-term pact.
Braves will try to re-sign Josh Donaldson. Not a surprise. He had an excellent year for them and remains a good fit for them. They will be able to extend to him the $17.8K qualifying offer first, which he will surely decline.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 29, 2019
Signed to a one year, $23 million deal last offseason by the Braves, Josh Donaldson put his injury-marred 2018 campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians behind him, absolutely justifying the one-year gamble that the Braves took on him.
In his 2019 season, Donaldson produced second-best totals of home runs (37) and runs driven in (100) while hitting .259 – pushing aside his career-high of 155 strikeouts, and Donaldson put together one of the better seasons of his career. In another contract year and on a new team, Donaldson contributed in many different ways for a team built on youthful exuberance and in need of a veteran presence.
For the Braves to resign Donaldson, a few things will need to happen, most importantly, they will need to open up their pockets for him. With their recent extensions with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, these players look to have taken under-market value deals in return for added long-term security, which is not blamable by any means.
But for Josh Donaldson, this offseason may represent his final chance at making big money, so the Braves will need to pay up if they want to retain his services. Understanding that the 33-year-old hot corner specialist will regress is fine and dandy and all, but his bat will play much longer than his glove will, opening up chances for him to stick with this team for the longevity of his new long-term deal.
A three-year agreement averaging around $21 million per season would be a good deal for both sides – if the deal was to be set up so that he was paid more upfront, with a breakdown similar to this: 2020 – $24 million 2021 – $20 million 2022 – $16 million, the Braves would be set. This kind of deal may be looked at as a bit of an underpay for Donaldson, but if he is happy in Atlanta, then any sort of incentive bonuses that can increase each year’s payout by at least $3 million should make up for any salary deficiencies.
Atlanta needs to retain Donaldson because it not only shores up their team at the plate, but it addresses any sort of defensive liabilities they would have if he was to leave. The only acceptable option for Donaldson to leave is if the Braves somehow managed to wrestle Anthony Rendon away from their division rival Washington Nationals this offseason, which would represent an absolute coup for all teams inside the NL East except the Nats.
Donaldson can still play, and his style of play fits exactly what the Braves are trying to replicate again in 2020. By bringing a set of offensive firepower to the lineup on a daily basis, combined with defensive prowess that places him in the above-average group, will make up for any strikeout or low walk numbers every day.
If Atlanta wants to win the division and compete for a World Series berth again, their path to accomplishing both of those things gets infinitely easier with Josh Donaldson in the fold, plain and simple.