For the third consecutive game, struggling New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson is not in the starting lineup. The 37-year-old owns a .125/.197/.406 batting line in 21 games around a hamstring injury this season, and every at-bat he takes at Yankee Stadium is met with boos. Despite that, the Yankees are not yet ready to cut ties with Donaldson.
"He's going to play a lot. I know there's a lot in there. I just want to get him going because I know he can be a key figure for us," manager Aaron Boone told reporters Sunday (per MLB.com) after being approximately 40 minutes late to his pregame media session. "... (We were) in a long conversation. Just him and I talking. I'm sorry it spilled over. We're good. We're on the same page."
Earlier this week Yankees GM Brian Cashman said the team wants to give Donaldson a longer "runway" to get on track after missing close to two months with his hamstring injury. Since that, Donaldson has four plate appearances in the team's past three games. Here's what Cashman said about Donaldson (via NJ.com):
"Obviously last year, he had a subpar offensive season, but prior to that, he's always been an above average offensive player," Cashman said on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. "This year he got out of the gates looking good and then he got hurt. And then he reaggravated his injury. So he's been down for a long period of time. I'd like to get him some runway here where he gets consistent at-bats and then can get on a roll and be in a better position to judge."
There are reasons to believe Donaldson is better than he has shown this season. His average exit velocity (91.3 mph) and barrel rate (22.2%) are exceptional, so he's still hitting the ball very hard, yet he owns a microscopic .051 batting average on balls in play. Donaldson's expected batting average based on the quality of his contact is .223. His expected slugging percentage is .560.
Donaldson joined the Yankees in the Isiah Kiner-Falefa trade with the Minnesota Twins last spring and he had a poor first season in New York, slashing .222/.308/.374 and going 5 for 29 (.172) with 16 strikeouts in the postseason. He still plays excellent defense, so Donaldson has value in the field. That said, a .125/.197/.406 line is a .125/.197/.406 line. He has been quite awful.
The Yankees owe Donaldson the remainder of his $21 million salary this season plus a $6 million buyout of his 2024 club option., so owner Hal Steinbrenner is willing to eat money to move on from unproductive veterans, though the Yankees are not ready to take that step with Donaldson just yet.
Yankees' third basemen (primarily Donaldson and DJ LeMahieu) are hitting a weak .189/.260/.351 with 0.0 WAR this year. Shortstop prospect Oswald Peraza, who lost the shortstop job to Anthony Volpe in spring training, is hitting .292/.360/.563 in Triple-A. He started five games at third when Donaldson was on the injured list, though he's currently sidelined with an abdominal issue.
The Yankees enter play Sunday with a 42-35 record and a half-game lead on a wild-card spot.. The Yankees are 7-10 and scoring only 3.0 runs scored per game since Judge last played.