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?
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