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Front Page: Josh Donaldson, Bringer of Rings


The Minnesota Twins will never be the same. This is a transformational signing. This is that first statement signing a team needs, when it matures into the kind of organization that can compete for top talent with those in bigger markets. At the plate, in the field, and on the books, Donaldson is just perfect for this team, at this moment.The Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth for seven years and $126 million prior to 2011. Unlike these Twins, those Nats weren’t ready to win, but they needed to announce themselves as serious about acquiring stars and about winning games. The Twins, despite their 101-win 2019, needed this signing to do the same. However, the serendipity of this match runs much deeper than that.

 

No contending team needed a defensive upgrade on the left side of its infield more than the Twins did. I wrote about this right after they were eliminated in October. Donaldson is a massive upgrade for them. He was second in Defensive Runs Saved at third base in 2019, and has been great throughout his career, but the particular way in which he saves those runs makes him a particularly perfect fit for Minnesota.

 

Defensive Runs Saved breaks down how players perform on balls they field straight on (including charging weakly-hit balls), to their right, and to their left. Of Donaldson’s 15 runs saved, 10 of them came on balls to his left, toward the hole between third base and shortstop. Donaldson is great ranging to his left, picking the ball smoothly and throwing accurately on the move, across his body. He’ll not only be an upgrade of about 20 runs over Miguel Sanó at his own position, but help minimize the impact of Jorge Polanco’s defensive deficiencies at short.

 

At the plate, the big problems the Twins face in 2020 are the risk of regression from some of their breakout bats and the departure of hitting coach James Rowson. Donaldson’s arrival softens both of those blows. The Twins’ trademark last season was their unrelenting focus on the goal of driving the ball in the air to the pull field. No team did it as often as they did; no team came close.

 

Few hitters agree as readily with that mentality, or execute it as methodically and faithfully, as Donaldson does. Teams and players who make that their objective can set themselves at different points on a spectrum of approaches, however, tinkering with the means they believe can most consistently achieve that end. Some prefer to emphasize plane, launch angle, and timing. Others emphasize maximizing exit velocity, even if it means using the big part of the field at times and having to command the strike zone better. The Twins fall into the latter bucket, and so does Donaldson.

 

Rank the 342 batters who had at least 150 tracked batted balls in 2019 by average exit velocity, and the Twins now have the second-, third-, and sixth-hardest hitters, in Sanó, Nelson Cruz, and Donaldson. Rank the group by average exit velocity solely on fly balls and line drives, and they have the first-, third-, fifth-, and seventh-most powerful sluggers, with those three in the same order and Mitch Garver sliding into the picture. If you were worried about a brain drain, or about the team being (on the whole) pretty aggressive and susceptible to junk, the addition of a guy like Donaldson, who walks about 15 percent of the time and will not shut up about leg kick and launch angle even if you ask him to, should be a source of comfort.

 

Cost certainty can be a hard asset to assess, but it’s clear that the Polanco, Max Kepler, and Sanó extensions have delivered tangible value here. With those three and Donaldson locked in for at least the next four seasons for an average annual total of $45 million and change, the team has a ton of flexibility. They can afford to pay Garver, Byron Buxton and Luis Arráez, even if they have big seasons that put them in position to demand huge paydays.

 

They have time and leverage to seek long-term deals with Royce Lewis, Trevor Larnach, or Alex Kirilloff, should any of them come up and perform in a way that makes that kind of investment seem wise. They’ve replaced Cruz’s massive power and reliability, a year before they even needed to do so. They have a solid offensive core under control for relatively little money, which gives them the season to assess some internal starting pitching candidates they like very, very much, and which will allow them to bid handsomely on starters next winter if those internal candidates don’t assert themselves.

 

Jeff Passan tweeted that the Twins were the sneaky favorites to sign Donaldson from the outset of the offseason. In hindsight, perhaps that should have been obvious. No team and player were better matched, even including the Twins and certain free-agent starters for whom they elected not to pay a premium. This move feels perfect.

 

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"...they needed to announce themselves as serious about acquiring stars and about winning games."

 

Well stated. Free agents don't want to sign here for this reason, not the weather. While I am dubious about the on-field impact Donaldson will make at this point in his career, I am 100% on board with this signing for this exact reason. 

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I was wrong. They FO did it. Nothing but credit. I don’t care if Donaldson suffers a career ending injury this year. They made the attempt, and that’s all I was asking for.

 

What a freaking lineup this team will have (especially against lefties). I’m imagining:

 

Polanco, SS

Donaldson, 3B

Cruz, DH

Sano, 1B

Garver, C

Kepler, RF

Rosario, LF

Arraez, 2B

Buxton, CF

 

Pretty incredible. Now, everyone make their sacrifice/offering to the injury gods.

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I want to know how things went with the Nats and Braves to know how he wound up in MN. Im worried he just will take his pay day and figuratively not show up to the park.

From everything I’ve read the guy is super-competitive and doesn’t have a ring. I don’t think “phoning it in” is something we need to worry about.
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I want to know how things went with the Nats and Braves to know how he wound up in MN. Im worried he just will take his pay day and figuratively not show up to the park.

No man, don't let the Minnesotaness take over. We can enjoy things!

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Let's hope the Twins at least come close to last year's success if not surpass it.  We still only have Berrios and Pineda under contract for 2021 for the rotation.  Assuming at least as much success in 2020 as in 2019, I can't help but wonder if this signing might help the Twins convince FA SP to come here next offseason.

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I Like Donaldson as a player, but I do not like this signing for the Twins.  Committing 20+M to a 34 yr old 3rd baseman (Will be a DH by the end of the Contract) for a team with a payroll of 130-140M seems like a luxury.....need to spend the money to resign Berrios if we cannot attract FA pitchers we better keep what we have.  

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I Like Donaldson as a player, but I do not like this signing for the Twins. Committing 20+M to a 34 yr old 3rd baseman (Will be a DH by the end of the Contract) for a team with a payroll of 130-140M seems like a luxury.....need to spend the money to resign Berrios if we cannot attract FA pitchers we better keep what we have.

The solution to this is for the Twins to stop being a $130-140m team.

 

They’re coming off a 101 win season, for crying out loud.

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Anyone know Donaldson's career numbers at Target Field?  We all know he's been an absolute monster there.  Wonder what those would mean over 81 games in 2020.

I think his numbers at Target Field were likely more related to the Twins pitchers from 2013-2018 than anything special about the ballpark.

 

Otherwise we could still probably sign Jose Bautista too and get good Target Field performance, even adjusting of age. :)

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I Like Donaldson as a player, but I do not like this signing for the Twins.  Committing 20+M to a 34 yr old 3rd baseman (Will be a DH by the end of the Contract) for a team with a payroll of 130-140M seems like a luxury.....need to spend the money to resign Berrios if we cannot attract FA pitchers we better keep what we have.  

Berrios is here through 2022 regardless.

 

And what if Berrios doesn't want to sign a reasonable extension? We've got what appears to be a pretty darn good core right now -- we can prioritize winning in 2020-2022 a bit more than winning in 2023 if we want.

 

And Donaldson's deal certainly doesn't handcuff us for 2023 or anything either, even if he is a DH by that time. We guaranteed a 38 year old DH $14 mil for 2019 too and it turned out pretty well. :)

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The solution to this is for the Twins to stop being a $130-140m team.

 

They’re coming off a 101 win season, for crying out loud.

Nailed it.

 

If we’re going off of the 50% of revenue rule, they could’ve been spending 130-140 when they were awful and getting no fan turnout (they made $270 in 2018 while being terrible).

 

They should have to no problem getting up into the 150-160 range while still not surpassing 50% of revenues going forward if they remain competitive.

 

The media has done such a great job protecting the Pohlad’s pockets for decades, that people actually believe this is a massive and extremely risky deal. No way this deal should hamstring the Twins. For God’s sake, people were signing $100M deals back in the 90s. It’s time for some people to adjust their thinking for inflation. He’s one of the best players in the game. It’s a bargain.

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Nailed it.

If we’re going off of the 50% of revenue rule, they could’ve been spending 130-140 when they were awful and getting no fan turnout (they made $270 in 2018 while being terrible).

They should have to no problem getting up into the 150-160 range while still not surpassing 50% of revenues going forward if they remain competitive.

The media has done such a great job protecting the Pohlad’s pockets for decades, that people actually believe this is a massive and extremely risky deal. No way this deal should hamstring the Twins. For God’s sake, people were signing $100M deals back in the 90s. It’s time for some people to adjust their thinking for inflation. He’s one of the best players in the game. It’s a bargain.

I haven't found this definitively yet but it appears the Twins' TV deal expires after the 2023 season.

 

It seems to me that a bunch of wins, maybe even a championship, going into that new deal is worth upping payroll for the next few seasons. 

 

Go into negotiations in as strong a position as possible.

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