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4 Concerns with Josh Donaldson’s Off-Season Trade Value


Rumors swirled at the trade deadline regarding possible Josh Donaldson trade scenarios. On a team with little to play for, he has continued to produce. Here are four concerns facing any potential Donaldson deal in the offseason.

After failing to contend in 2021, the Twins are in an intriguing position when planning for the future. Can the team be competitive in 2022? Is it going to take multiple years to get back near the top of the AL Central? Josh Donaldson is under contract for two more seasons, and there is a chance he isn’t part of Minnesota’s next winning club. 

Concern 1: Offensive Production
Minnesota paid a hefty premium to sign Donaldson because they were in the middle of a winning window. Generally speaking, the Twins knew what they were getting with Donaldson, and he has lived up to that billing. He’s posted an .822 OPS and a 127 OPS+ during his Twins tenure, which is probably more than fans expected when signing a player in his mid-30s. 

Since signing, Donaldson ranks ninth in WAR among AL third basemen, just behind Alex Bregman. Only four AL third basemen rank higher than Donaldson when it comes to Win Probability Added. His Baseball Savant page is also full of plenty of red. He ranks in the 90th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard-hit %, xwOBA, xSLG, barrel %, and BB %. His offensive skills are still there even at age 35.

Concern 2: Long-Term Health
This season, health has been less of an issue as he has appeared in over 115 games for only the second time since 2016. Chronic calf issues seem to be part of the Donaldson equation, but maybe he has figured out the proper regimen to stay on the field. Minnesota has also given Donaldson regular rest and time at designated hitter. 

During the 2021 season, Donaldson has missed the most time with hamstring injuries. He altered his running style to put less pressure on his calves, which might have hampered his hamstrings. Even if he has put some doubts to rest, his age and previous injury history will factor into any Donaldson trade.

Concern 3: Large Contract
Finding a taker for Donaldson’s contract might be another challenge, because Donaldson has over $50 million in guaranteed money remaining on his contract. Minnesota will likely need to pay some of his remaining guaranteed money to get any value in return. According to FanGraphs, Donaldson was worth just under $7 million in 2020, and he has been worth $12.7 million so far in 2021. That’s lower than the $21.75 million he is due in each of the next two years. Would the Twins be willing to pay $20-25 million of his remaining guaranteed money? That might seem like a lot, but that’s what it may take to get a decent return. 

Concern 4: Personality
There are also some teams that aren't going to be interested in Donaldson because of his on and off the field behavior. Overall, he has a personality that rubs some people the wrong way. Minnesota’s front office had to know what they were getting when they signed Josh Donaldson. He had a proven track record of being outspoken, but the Twins were willing to deal with his on and off-field behavior if he helped push the team to postseason success. Obviously, Donaldson has yet to help the team to October glory, and the team may be ready to move on from him. 

Do you think Donaldson gets traded this winter? Will the team spend the money needed to get a prospect back? 

Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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I don't see the Twins unloading Donaldson.  Most of the teams with high payrolls that could take him are pretty tapped out and or have more pressing needs than an aging 3rd baseman\DH. 

Having the Twins put in 6 to 10M per year to get rid of him for a decent prospect doesn't make much sense to me either.  Paying another team 6 to 10 per year to watch your player OPS 820 to 850 for them seems like a bad use of money to me and If you are essentially paying a team 15 to 20 million for a prospect it better be a really good one. It also doesn't make the FO look good as they negotiated that deal and no one else will pay it?  That is a bad visual IMO.

I think if they could unload the full Donaldson contract and then invest that money in one of the good FA SS this year that would make sense.  If they think Miranda is ready to replace him at third they could do that although I doubt Miranda OPS's 800 at the MLB level his first season.

Like I said I think they keep him as he is providing what he was paid to provide which is 20 some homers an OPS over 800 and  a decent walk rate making him a tough out at the plate.  If a team wants him they need to pony up IMO and if the Twins do move him they need to reinvest that money in top tier pitching or someone who can play shortstop long term. This is a tough offseason to gauge with a new CBA to be negotiated so that might play into things as well.

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I think you have to let him play it out. He's such a boom or bust player with the injuries .. At the moment you'd be selling low and eating a TON of money for not much in return.

The best option the Twins have his to pray that he stays healthy the next few years and hope a team at the deadline in the  talks themselves into taking on the remaining portion of his contract. It's not like the Twins are getting a player that hampers them when he plays too .. Still a very solid option at 3rd.

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I think they keep him as a mentor/on field coach for Miranda. I also think they work out some sort of rotation @ 3B, 1B, DH and LF/RF with Sano (who I personally would like to see traded), Donaldson, Miranda, Kirilloff and Larnach. Days off and positional flexibility may help keep everyone on the field and performing. 

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I'm not sure how you arrived at #4, personality. I watch and/or listen to too many Twins games and I do not see any problems whatsoever. Because I have never met JD and do not know him it seems odd to me to include personality in your post. Health is the only item that slows down Josh Donaldson at this time. He and Jorge Polanco are the only two steady figures right now for the Twins lineup. I do wonder if JD can play an effective 1B to add to his play at 3B and use as a DH. There needs to be a place to try Jose Miranda and Alex Kirilloff next season if they are with the team.

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He's been healthy this year. I see the main points for a trade being health, age (which impacts speed/defense and health), and contract.  But arguably, the contract isn't scary if you aren't worried about health or age. 

I'll be happy if he is here next year since I enjoy watching him play.  I'll be okay if they pay some of the salary and get good prospects back. (Not my preference unless those are top prospects, which I doubt.)  I'll be happy if they trade his full salary and then sign a top SS. (But not Baez and not 100% sold on Story, so doubtful the Twins land Seager or Correa.) My guess is nothing happens.

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We keep Donaldson.  He will be a bargain in the 5th year of his contract.  With 8 million already committed its an 8 million decision.  I bet at that cost they keep him through year 5.  And I expect us to be competetive next year.  We are only 2 starting pitchers away from a rotation with depth.  And maybe a reliever.  Our offense just needs health and we are back to winning. I do want to add we are 20 -22 since the July 31rst trade deadline and that is after we traded Berrios and Cruz.  We are closer than our record appears.

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1 hour ago, strumdatjag said:

I didn’t like the contract initially, but at this point I think the Twins should just keep Josh around.  Have him play more DH to try to keep him healthy, and play out this contract.  

Twins need his defense at Third BADLY,   neither Arraez or Astudillo or Gordon  are not a minus  there.

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Barring a surprise, I think they keep him. In fact, unless someone picks up about 100% of his deal, his greatest value is keeping him. Actually paying someone to take him doesn't really offer that much salary relief, especially when you consider how little we may get back vs what he can produce if relatively healthy. 

He MIGHT be an interesting 2022 trade piece if the Twins aren't contending or have a viable replacement in place. 

I find point #4 regarding his personality to be interesting. I'm not saying he is a bad teamate. In fact, I think it's just the opposite. Since he was signed young players have gravitated towards him and he has responded with leadership and advice as a sort of mentor. But to coin an old expression, he is a "red ass". His team loves him, and opponents hate him. Think AJ back in the day before Mauer took over and just about every team AJ played for.

He has been quite healthy for this year and has basically produced to career norms. I think he is mature enough in his career to recognize and appreciate his DH usage to keep him fresh. And really, this team could maybe use a little "red ass" to keep everyone sharp and determined.

I will argue that when he doesn't play 3B the Twins are destitute there, (And yes, I'm hoping for AT LEAST 60% of his games being spent there). Arraez has gotten better there the more he's played there. Not great, but OK. And 3B might be Astudillo's best spot. And this prospect named Miranda may just take over the position at some point in 2022.

I'd keep Donaldson 100% unless someone picks up his salary and offers something back you can't turn down. 

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Good article Cody and good discussion.  I also think the Twins keep him.  While it would be nice to have a team take his salary off our hands if we accepted a middling prospect the ONLY way that would actually be favorable for the Twins would be if they invested the money saved into "top shelf" pitching (no Happ's, Shoemaker's or Colome's) or a starting SS.  But he IS a solid bat in the lineup and he will be used at DH as well.  It almost comes down to a Sano vs Donaldson question and as low as both players trade value is right now they are probably just better off hanging on to them.  Doc Bauer is correct in pointing out that next year's trade deadline will be interesting.  If the Twins are "contending" that would tell me that many of the pitching deficiencies have been addressed.  it would also portend that our offense is getting what it needs out of Sano/Donaldson/Buxton and others.  Unfortunately, I don't have a crystal ball so I don't know what the situation will be.  But I see a Donaldson or Sano trade being much more likely at next year's trade deadline.  But at this point, and depending on what our payroll limit is next year, we're better off keeping Donaldson.

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I was not in favor of the signing of Josh Donaldson, due to his health problems, his past history as a catcher all through the minors and into the majors (hard on his legs), his surly personality, and his failure to hustle 100% of the time.  I think the Twins are stuck with him for the next 2 years. As far as his being a mentor for the young players...I would much rather Nelson Cruz mentor my son, if my son were a young baseball player. Being  the number 1 Twins fan in North Carolina, (since 1952, when they were in Washington), for me has not been about winning. If it were, I would have rooted for the Evil Empire all these years, and I'd wear a hat with NY on it. I know, I know some of you will disagree, but I ask you the following question, If it is totally about winning for you, why the hell are you a Twins' fan?   

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14 hours ago, RpR said:

Twins need his defense at Third BADLY,   neither Arraez or Astudillo or Gordon  are not a minus  there.

Josh hasn’t been able to stay healthy.   The extra defense is a luxury that is likely to backfire when he is inevitably injured. 

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16 hours ago, Brandon said:

We keep Donaldson.  He will be a bargain in the 5th year of his contract.  With 8 million already committed its an 8 million decision.  I bet at that cost they keep him through year 5.  And I expect us to be competetive next year.  We are only 2 starting pitchers away from a rotation with depth.  And maybe a reliever.  Our offense just needs health and we are back to winning. I do want to add we are 20 -22 since the July 31rst trade deadline and that is after we traded Berrios and Cruz.  We are closer than our record appears.

The two starting pitchers and rotation depth piece assumes we are playing the season with injuries “toggled to off.” We need to plan for 7 SPs, 7 good relievers, that kind of thing.

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Donaldson will be here for a while, and that's a good thing.  His numbers are good, his fire is good.  His public statements this year on pitching helped improve the entire game of baseball.  People who will speak truth to power are rare, when you find one of them hold onto them.

And I like that home run video, for what that's worth.  I am assuming that umpire was calling a very bad game.  

As for his health, it's amazing how a losing season suddenly sees players sitting out more often.  Only two players have played more games than Donaldson this year for the Twins.  I wouldn't worry about his health.  Of the 57 players who have been on the 40-man roster this year, Donaldson has been on the field more often than 55 of them.

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I would like to see him go. Maybe to the Yankees. They always seem to be in the market for over priced former super stars. Maybe they have a good fielding short stop prospect we can get in return.

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I would keep JD rather than eat salary and trade him. He is still a good player, and I like his attitude. I think its good to have a veteran with some fire in the clubhouse. I have heard no criticism about his attitude internally. Honestly, I think sometimes he's the only vet that really has some fire in him.

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Keep him.  We won't be able to replace him with any savings we get - so we will be worse as a team if he's playing elsewhere for at least 1 more year.  No guarantee any savings would be reinvested in the team anyway.  However with that said - if we get a 2 or 3 pitcher for it, then it might be a good long term investment.

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When you sign an aging veteran to a four year deal you count on the bulk of that value to be in the first two years. He has performed as expected the first two years with a 125 OPS+ and starting 137 of 208 games.

I would expect both those numbers will drop in the next two years. He is still a good player but relative to his contract likely a negative value. Those contracts are hard to trade in the off-season when there is also a supply of players in free agency,

In two years that money will free up and the Twins can take another shot at a big free agent commitment

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