Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson is having the ultimate comeback year. After his past two seasons were deteriorated by injuries, he’s shown his MVP form wasn’t stranded in his past.
Donaldson, who turns 34 in December, has hit .260/.381/.530 with 37 homers, 89 RBIs and 94 runs scored for the first-place Braves. He’s provided a dynamic, on and off the field, the Braves lacked. That’s without mentioning his Gold Glove-worthy defense, which has surpassed any modest expectations.
Because of his past two seasons, Donaldson signed a prove-it deal in November. His one-year, $23 million pact with the Braves reunited him with general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who acquired him when he was the headman in Toronto. Donaldson became perhaps the second-best hitter in the game while with the Blue Jays, winning MVP honors in 2015.
He’ll re-enter the market this winter, primed for a multi-year deal with significant compensation. Donaldson could be considered the offseason’s third-best free agent, trailing starter Gerrit Cole and fellow third baseman Anthony Rendon.
The Braves are on the verge of clinching the National League East, possibly as early as Thursday. So it should come as no surprise that Donaldson said he hasn’t spent any time dwelling on what might happen after the team’s postseason run.
“That’s not something I put any time or energy into,” he said. “My focus is the now and how I can help this team win at all cost.”
Donaldson, who shifted from second in the lineup to cleanup in May, has helped pave way for Freddie Freeman’s career year. Freeman has hit 38 homers and leads the majors with 117 RBIs. The veterans form a dangerous 3-4 punch.
Despite the presence of Austin Riley – who can also play the outfield – the Braves would love to retain their slugging third baseman, whose next contract will be more about the years than the average annual value.
A Florida native and Auburn product, Donaldson always saw special appeal in joining the Braves. He’s comfortable with Anthopoulos and clearly values being on a team that, regardless of what happens next month, should be competing for titles over the next several seasons.
“I’ve enjoyed playing here every day,” Donaldson said. “And I look forward to playing in this uniform as long as I can.”
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