news 4 days ago

What Twins' deal with Josh Donaldson means for Braves, Nationals, Indians

Sporting News — (Dan Bernstein)

The Twins on Tuesday signed free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million contract, as first reported by MLB.com.

It's a big splash for a team already carrying an edge over its division rivals, and one that could damage the organizations that missed out on the prolific slugger.

Donaldson, 34, roared back from an injury-plagued 2018 season to mash 37 home runs last year. He brings even more power to a lineup that already featured Miguel Sano, Nelson Cruz and Eddie Rosario. Plus, his slick defense at the hot corner will allow Sano to transition to first base, improving the left side of the infield.

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Here are some of the potential ramifications of the signing:

Braves could regret not re-signing Donaldson

Donaldson, of course, played for the Braves last year on a one-year, $23 million deal. He was a top priority for the team this offseason given its need for offensive support around Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies. Now, with most top MLB free agents already signed, Atlanta will need to cobble together a secondary plan for boosting its order or risk being surpassed in the competitive NL East.

A strong sophomore season from Austin Riley (18 home runs in 80 games) and a healthy campaign from Dansby Swanson would also be useful to the Braves as they attempt to keep up with the reigning World Series champion Nationals and revamped Phillies.

Nationals content with Plan B

Washington appears in better position than Atlanta to withstand missing out on Donaldson, and in truth, it seemed it accepted this outcome several weeks ago. The Nationals brought back Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera, signed Starlin Castro and expect top prospect Carter Kieboom to help out their infield moving forward. They did lose Anthony Rendon to free agency, of course, but managed to bring back their entire pitching staff from their title run.

Sure, it would have been nice for the Nationals to fortify their lineup. But there remains enough talent to reach the postseason again, even with stiff competition.

Indians in bleak spot in AL Central

In a couple of years, the Indians went from AL Central kings to being a distant second to the Twins. They've dealt starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, and they're messing around with one of the most talented players their franchise has ever had in shortstop Francisco Lindor.

After missing the postseason in 2019, Cleveland is in danger of another empty October despite the presence of Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Shane Bieber, among other talented core players. Donaldson joining Minnesota could make the apparent gap between the Indians and Twins even wider.