Not to put too fine a decimal point on it, but $27.5 million is a lot of money. (So’s $25 mil, for that matter.) Rendon’s contract with the Angels carries an AAV of $35 million, but he’s 29 and coming off a career year that culminated in an improbable championship. Also: Rendon’s seven-year deal takes him to age 36, not 38.
The Braves might have to dig deep(er) and say, “Here’s your $110 million,” if for no other reason than to keep Donaldson from becoming a Nat. That would be a worst-case scenario: You lose the guy you felt you had to keep, and you lose him to your most hated rival. That also would leave the Braves staring at an Austin Riley/Johan Camargo spring playoff for the third-base job, which everybody in the organization would concede is a distant Plan B.
In 2018, the Braves had eight everyday players muster a WAR, as calculated by Baseball-Reference, of 2.0 or better. Last year only four everyday Braves did. They were the first four hitters in the lineup: Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Donaldson. They were, in the main, a good-hitting team — they finished third among NL clubs in runs and OPS — but they became a top-heavy team. Take away Donaldson and you’re down to three heavy hitters.
Yes, Riley has potential. Yes, Camargo was excellent for most of 2018 but got lost in 2019 after relegation to super-utility duty. Yes, Ender Inciarte has been an All-Star. Yes, Travis d’Arnaud should add some of the pop lost when Kurt Suzuki took his catching talents to D.C. But this batting order doesn’t hang together half as well without Donaldson as with him. Is that worth an extra $10 million?
The Braves didn’t load up on bullpen arms and spend $18 million for one year of Cole Hamels in the hope that they’ll be World Series champs in 2023. They’re looking to win it all — or at least win a postseason series — ASAP. Their one-year bet of $23 million on Donaldson enabled them to win 97 games, the best the Braves have done since 2003, but it also left them in a position where raising that bet more than fourfold is the only good option going forward.
To repeat myself: I believe the Braves will re-sign Donaldson. I believe this because there’s no real alternative. It would cost too much in prospects to pry Nolan Arenado from the Rockies. Until Kris Bryant’s MLB grievance is settled, any trade would leave his new team not knowing how much it will have to pay him, which is no way to do business.
There’s Donaldson, and then there’s a void. Another $10 million could render that void ... er, null and void. I’d do it, but it’s not my money.