Josh Donaldson, the former American League MVP who retook his career with a single outstanding season in Atlanta, has agreed to a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Twins, sources said Tuesday.
The deal, pending a physical, is expected to be for $92 million over four seasons with an option for a fifth year that could bring the total value to $100 million. MLB.com first reported the deal.
Since winning the American League Central with 101 wins last season, the Twins have added Donaldson, pitchers Homer Bailey, Rich Hill, Tyler Clippard and Sergio Romo and catcher Alex Avila. They also re-signed starting pitcher Michael Pineda. Fifteen-game winner Jake Odorizzi accepted the qualifying offer. Also, the Twins recently extended Miguel Sano for three years and $30 million.
The third-base market had awakened in the first two weeks of December, when Mike Moustakas signed with the Cincinnati Reds for $64 million over four years and Anthony Rendon signed with the Los Angeles Angels for $245 million over seven. The market appeared, then, to narrow to the Braves, Twins and Washington Nationals, who’d lost Rendon to the Angels. By early January, the Nationals seemed to pivot toward other options at third base, having signed Starlin Castro and Asdrubal Cabrera for depth while preparing for the arrival of Carter Kieboom, their top prospect.
A feared bat over five seasons with the Oakland A’s and Toronto Blue Jays, the late-blooming Donaldson opted for a one-year contract last offseason with the Braves. He’d come off a season in which he’d missed about 100 games because of shoulder fatigue and a calf strain, during which he was traded to the Cleveland Indians two months before he’d become a free agent, at nearly 33, for the first time.
The ailments and time off the field resulted in a down year and made a long-term agreement in free agency a perilous proposition. The Braves gave him $23 million, hoped for the best, and in return got their best offensive player. Donaldson hit 37 home runs and OPSed .900, behind only Rendon, Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant among National League third basemen. The Braves also valued Donaldson’s unique personality and leadership capabilities in a clubhouse heavy with young players. They won 97 games, their highest total in 16 years, and won the NL East before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in a five-game division series.
Donaldson was raised in Florida and Alabama and drafted (by the Chicago Cubs, in 2007) out of Auburn. He and the Braves agreed in October they’d been a perfect fit, that he’d reestablished his value over his season in Atlanta and they’d won partly as a result. Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said then he’d be open to a new contract between the two, as the Braves had no obvious replacement for Donaldson at third base.
Though he gave away some years to most, Donaldson also graded out as well or better than all NL third basemen other than Arenado.
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