Twins Need to Make a Splash With the Rain Man: Sign Josh Donaldson
Image courtesy of John E. Sokolowski, USA TodayThe Twins absolutely need another starting pitcher, and they have been very active in seeking help for the rotation. The problem, however, is that the cost and demand are at unforeseen levels. Strasburg and Cole combined for 16 years and $569 million, and even Tanner Roark, Kyle Gibson and Michael Wacha saw their stocks balloon. The Twins may not be willing to commit four or five years for $100 million or more to Madison Bumgarner or Hyun-Jin Ryu, and that is understandable.
Even with Gibson and Martín Pérez struggling down the stretch, the Twins rotation ranked seventh in baseball in fWAR in 2019,. José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda fused together for a 3.72 ERA and 513 strikeouts in 505 1/3 innings in 2019. General manager Thad Levine told Dan Hayes of The Athletic that they feel they have “stabilized” by bringing their three best pitchers back from a year ago. As much as Bumgarner and Ryu would excite fans, multiple California teams are involved with both, and the odds that they leave the west for Minnesota seem worse with every new report.
The Twins have to improve this winter. They have the talent, youth, financial flexibility and opportunity in the weak AL Central to hang division title banners on a yearly basis. So, since the “top” pitchers are unattainable or ridiculously priced, they should focus on bringing in another impact bat, while supplementing with someone like Dallas Keuchel. What if I told you the Twins could add one of the best hitters and premier defenders in baseball?
Joshua Adam Donaldson played in 155 games last year for the Braves and hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs, 33 doubles, 94 RBI, and 15 runs saved defensively at third base. This was not a breakthrough year for the former MVP, as his career slash line is .273/.369/.509 with 219 home runs. He is a certified stud at the plate and is still a premier defender entering his age-34 season.
Many people will point to career trajectory and his demand of a four-year contract as deal breakers. I will happily remind you that Nelson Cruz just hit .311/.392/.639 with 41 home runs in his age-38 season. Donaldson could be different and has a history of injuries, but that is well worth the risk. A four-year, $100 million deal for Donaldson is the likely contract, and the Twins should make it happen.
But can the Twins actually convince Donaldson to come to Minneapolis? I believe they can. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Donaldson has a relatively small market. The Nationals and Braves have been most heavily linked to him, but neither team has the financial flexibility of the Twins. The ink is still drying on Strasburg’s huge deal with the Nationals, and they seemingly made no effort to resign Anthony Rendon this winter. I would be surprised if the Nationals committed $100 million to a different third baseman.
The Braves want to keep Donaldson, and he has expressed a preference to return to Atlanta, but they are not confident in being able to pay him.This leaves the Dodgers as another linked team, but something tells me they won’t move Justin Turner over to first base for someone not named Rendon. This is a bidding war that the Twins can win.
There will be push back from the fan base if the Twins add a big time bat over an arm, but the goal here is to get better. Donaldson is a six-win player and the Twins can pound teams into submission while developing their pitchers from within. The left side of the infield was weak last year and Donaldson brings outstanding defense. Brusdar Graterol, Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran are on the horizon, and avoiding ludicrous contracts with aging pitchers is nothing to scoff at.
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