After a season which saw him sign a lucrative one year deal with the Braves and emerge yet again as one of the better hitters in all of baseball, most would agree that having Josh Donaldson on a roster would make most teams better. He had been a perennial MVP candidate during his time with the Blue Jays and, after an injured marred 2018 season, he showed out yet again in 2019 with a 132 wRC+ and a .259/.379/.521 line while playing excellent defense over at third base.
Given that he is one of the best bats in the league, his free agency has gotten a lot of attention. The Braves smartly gave him a qualifying offer and both sides had already indicated that there was mutual interest in having him back in Atlanta. In addition to being productive on the field offensively and defensively, he proved to be a good fit in a clubhouse that has established vets and young talent.
However, as it turns out, the Braves are going to have plenty of competition for Donaldson this offseason. Despite the fact that he has a qualifying offer attached, there are already teams vying to bring him into the fold. Last week, it was reported fairly widely that the Rangers had him on their wishlist for the offseason.
The Texas Rangers have expressed interest in Josh Donaldson as they head into an offseason in which they have money to spend. The Rangers are making third base and starting pitching a priority, and Donaldson is coming off a phenomenal season with Atlanta.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 8, 2019
The Rangers could prove to be a great fit for Donaldson in a couple of ways. First, they are very motivated to get some star power on their roster (and they definitely have a need a third) as they open their new ballpark, Globe Life Field, next season. Additionally, they have the added benefit of having very friendly tax laws which make any deal they offer have “more real value” to a player since that player would be getting a larger percentage of it in their pockets than in other states. These factors make the Rangers arguably the greatest threat to steal Donaldson away from the Braves.
More recently, another team has entered the fray as the Nationals have now expressed interest in Donaldson.
The Nationals are the latest team showing interest in Josh Donaldson. The latest on that and more from the GM Meetings: https://t.co/a7eua4Gpfw— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 12, 2019
The Nationals are an interesting team in the Donaldson sweepstakes as it seems that their interest in Donaldson could mean that they do not have much confidence that they will be able to sign Anthony Rendon, the best position player on the free agent market this offseason, back despite having interest in doing so. The Nationals like to spend money and may be extra motivated now to keep up the momentum now that they have a World Series ring.
The Nationals are not even the only team in the National League East that are intersted in Donaldson as the Phillies have previously thrown their hats into the ring as well.
Josh Donaldson is already (and predictably) a hot name on the free-agent market. The Rangers and Phillies are among the teams that have interest in the third baseman, who put together a very strong 2019 season (37 HR, .900 OPS) in Atlanta.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 8, 2019
The Phillies are another team that has a propensity for spending money which is good news for Donaldson as having them in any bidding war is likely to mean good news for him when the dust settles. They are also highly motivated to improve their team given how their 2019 season went despite spending so much last offseason. However, the Phillies have made it known that they are going to be reluctant to part with draft picks which is problematic given that the QO is attached to Donaldson. Donaldson is likely a guy that will only end up getting a three or four year deal at most given his age and teams are going to hesitant to give up draft picks for such a player.
All of that being said, the Braves are still likely the favorite to sign him. They don’t have to factor in the loss of a draft pick into any offer they make to him, he grew up in the south and seemed to enjoy his time in Atlanta, and the Braves are both motivated and appear to be set to be playoff contenders for a long time. However, as you can see above, his return to Atlanta is far from a sure thing.