The Braves want to retain third baseman Josh Donaldson, though they understand free-agent waters can be unpredictable.
When the Braves were eliminated from the postseason Wednesday night, it might’ve concluded Donaldson’s tenure with the team. Donaldson, who turns 34 in December, signed a one-year deal last winter hoping to re-establish his value after a season deteriorated by injuries.
Donaldson did just that: He hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 homers, 94 RBIs and 96 runs scored, though he hit .212 with six homers in his final 113 at-bats, dating to Aug. 26 and including the postseason. Overall, he gave the Braves exactly what they were hoping for, adding a menacing presence to the middle of the lineup and paving the way for arguably the best regular season of Freddie Freeman’s career. He also played exceptional defense at third, helping the Braves in becoming one of the most defensively sound teams in the National League.
After the World Series, the former American League MVP will enter the market aiming for one last substantial payday, be it from the Braves or another organization.
“He’s a key part of our team,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who previously acquired Donaldson for the Blue Jays, said. “Great player, complete player. Things we look for. Great offensive player, on-base skills, great defender, intense competitor, toughness. Fits us in every way we want to.
“With that being said, when we entered into this agreement with him, the understanding and the hope was that he’d be in position to rebuild his value. And I believe we positioned ourselves, if all things are equal from a contractual standpoint – I haven’t had this discussion with him or his agent – but I believe this would be where he wants to be. I know he enjoyed it here.”
But all things might not be equal contractually. Donaldson is one of the premier position players on the market despite his age. He’s easily the second-best third baseman, behind only Washington’s Anthony Rendon.
Donaldson, who’s from Florida and went to Auburn, frequently expressed appreciation for playing near home. His previous stops – Oakland, Toronto, Cleveland – weren’t exactly the Deep South. That the Braves won 97 games and Donaldson appeared extremely comfortable should only help matters.
Yet it only takes one team to swing in with a titanic offer, so the Braves won’t speak to their chances of keeping Donaldson at home.
“It’s free agency, it’s not salary arbitration,” Anthopoulos said. “There’s no way to tell. Your value is what that free-agent market will give. What the needs are, supply-demand, which teams. So we’ll talk, we’ll definitely have interest in trying to sign him back, we will engage; to handicap our chances, it’s just too hard to tell.
“The only thing I’ll say is, when both sides have interest, that’s a great starting point.”
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