Free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson agreed to a four-year deal with the Minnesota Twins, the team confirmed Wednesday. Donaldson's agreement worth $92 million guaranteed with a club option for 2024, per Ken Rosenthal. Donaldson is the second major third baseman to change teams this winter, with Anthony Rendon previously inking a blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Labeling Donaldson as a downmarket alternative to Rendon is unfair -- even if he does rank below Rendon here due in part to their age gap. (Donaldson will turn 34 in December; Rendon isn't yet 30.) Donaldson stayed healthy this season for the first time in three tries, and proved that he's still a middle-of-the-order thumper with a good glove at the hot corner. He's unlikely to receive his rumored desire of a four-year deal -- and some age-related decline is to be expected over the next couple seasons -- but so long as he's hearty and hale he should be a nifty addition for a contender who is unwilling to shell out what Rendon demands
Donaldson, 34, has hit .261/.377/.523 (133 OPS+) while averaging 26 home runs over the last three seasons. That average is skewed, of course, by an injury-derailed 2018 that saw him play in just 52 games. Donaldson has otherwise homered at least 30 times in each of his last four seasons in which he's played in triple-digit games. That includes him launching 33 home runs in 113 games in 2017, back when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Nationals and Braves had been among the teams most closely linked to Donaldson throughout the winter. Instead, it'll be the Twins who land his services, and, in the process, presumably slide incumbent third baseman Miguel Sano to first base. (Minnesota only recently signed Sano to an extension.) That would give the Twins a potential lineup that looks a little like this:
- Max Kepler, RF
- Jorge Polanco, SS
- Nelson Cruz, DH
- Josh Donaldson, 3B
- Eddie Rosario, LF
- Mitch Garver, C
- Miguel Sano, 1B
- Byron Buxton, CF
- Luis Arraez, 2B
It's a good looking group, one that has Alex Avila, Marwin Gonzalez, and Jake Cave available off the bench in case of emergency.
Previously, the Twins had focused on improving their pitching staff: signing Homer Bailey, Michael Pineda, and Rich Hill for the rotation and Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard in the bullpen. Those moves weren't without risk, as both Pineda (suspension) and Hill (injury) are expected to miss time in the early portion of the season.
Barring some surprise moves the rest of the offseason, the Twins will likely enter spring as the favorites to repeat as American League Central champions. The Chicago White Sox have upgraded in a major way, and Cleveland figures to make some moves between now and Opening Day, but the Twins seem to offer the best balance of upside and certainty.