Brewers: Is It Josh Donaldson Or Bust At Third Base?
By David Gasper
The Milwaukee Brewers currently have a gaping hole at third base. While there’s plenty of time to find someone to play the position in 2020, there aren’t plenty of good options to choose from.
The free agent market at third base is very top heavy this offseason. The Brewers already lost Mike Moustakas to the Cincinnati Reds. The other top options on the market are Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson.
After those two, however, the third base group drops off considerably. The next best options include Asdrubal Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Brock Holt, and Jedd Gyorko. That’s hardly an inspiring group of names for a team trying to win a World Series.
Given Anthony Rendon’s age and performance he is going to be way out of the Brewers price range this offseason. That leaves Josh Donaldson as the only free agent third baseman that doesn’t require a platoon and can still boost a lineup. With the hot corner being such an important position, it could be “Josh Donaldson or Bust” for the Brewers at third base this offseason.
What Could Josh Donaldson Bring?
Josh Donaldson, more commonly known as the Bringer of Rain, would bring more than just rain to Milwaukee. He would bring an immense upgrade at third base providing both stellar defense and exceptional hitting.
Defensively, Donaldson, over his career, has been worth 68 Defensive Runs Saved at third base. Last year for Atlanta, Donaldson saved 15 runs at the hot corner. He has above-average range at the position and a strong throwing arm. With the Brewers emphasis on infield defense and shifting, a player like Donaldson would fit in perfectly.
Offensively, Donaldson can rake. In a healthy bounceback year for Atlanta in 2019, Donaldson hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 homers, 94 RBIs, a .900 OPS, and a 127 OPS+. That’ll more than make up for the loss of Moustakas. The 2015 AL MVP battled injuries his last few years in Toronto, but thrived now that he’s once again healthy.
Donaldson also has a number of years of postseason experience. The veteran slugger has hit .260 in playoff baseball with a .769 OPS, 11 doubles, and five home runs in 150 at-bats.
What Could Donaldson’s Contract Look Like?
Given that Donaldson is turning 34 on December 8th, (happy early birthday!), a long term deal in the range of four years or more is pretty unlikely. Moustakas was still only 31 years old and signed for four years, so Donaldson being three years older probably won’t get the same kind of length.
So a two or three year deal is probably more along the lines of what Donaldson will get. He signed a one year, $23 million deal with Atlanta last year and will look for a similar average annual value on a longer term deal.
Say Donaldson commands a $25 million annual salary on this market, which he probably will do. That’s a two year, $50 million deal or three years and $75 million. While that looks like a lot of money, especially considering the Brewers didn’t re-sign either Moustakas or Yasmani Grandal at their prices, it’s something the Brewers might be able to do.
They’ve been slashing payroll at any place possible. Almost every middle class player earning a couple million bucks was removed from the payroll. Brewers GM David Stearns is cutting the unnecessary fat on the payroll in order to clean up the picture, and in all likelihood, he’s gearing up for something big in terms of acquisitions.
That “something big” could be Donaldson. He’s a better defender than Moustakas or Travis Shaw. He’s a better hitter than Moose or Shaw. Lastly, Donaldson would bring the extra thump to the lineup and would allow the Crew to put three MVPs in a row in the lineup. With Donaldson, Christian Yelich, and Ryan Braun all together, that’s the power of three MVPs that no pitcher wants to face.
Based on the current holes of the roster and the options on the market, Stearns has to be either gearing up for a big starting pitching addition, or a big third base addition. If he’s going third base, it has to be Donaldson or bust
What About Trade Options?
The free agent market isn’t the only place to find a third baseman. Stearns is not afraid to whip up a trade every so often, and there could be a few third basemen available on the trade market. After all, Stearns found Travis Shaw on the trade market to be the Crew’s third baseman and basically stole him from the Red Sox.
Stearns is going to look on the trade market to see what’s out there for third base, but it’s highly doubtful that any available option is going to be better than Donaldson.
This would be the big splash Brewers fans have been looking for since half the roster has been turned over. This move would put an end to the talk of “beginning a rebuild” and all that other nonsense.k