After inking Josh Donaldson to a 4 year $92 million contract, the Twins were surely disappointed in him missing 32 games of the 60 game season in 2020, not to mention the playoffs. Confidence crumbled even further when in the first at bat of his 2021 season, Donaldson laced a pitch into the gap only to pull up with a hamstring injury which led to an IL stint. After Donaldson slashed .222/.373/.469 (good for 29% above league average) in his shortened 2020, it appeared all the Twins could do was hope for good health.
Since coming off the IL on April 14, Donaldson has had his longest stretch on the field in a Twins uniform. The Twins plans to rest him regularly essentially went out the window as the team struggled to pick up wins. To Donaldson’s credit, he’s avoided another IL trip despite the Twins aggressiveness in keeping him on the field. The Twins have largely gotten what they wanted from their largest free agent signing in franchise history, at least in terms of good health.
At the time of writing this, new concerns over the remaining two and a half years left on Donaldson’s contract have exposed themselves. Donaldson has been far from bad at the plate, but it’s worth noting that this slash line of .236/.338/.415 is far from an MVP candidate. His being 10% above league average by wRC+ is buoyed by the fact that offense league wide was significantly suppressed for the first month of the season.
Batting average is far from Donaldson’s game, but his .222 in 2020 and current .236 mark are both the lowest of his career going back to his rookie season in 2010. His current .338 OBP is his worst since 2014. His slugging % is his lowest since 2012.
In addition to a down offensive year, Donaldson appears to have stepped back significantly on defense. The former Gold Glove caliber third baseman has been worth -3 Defensive Runs Saved, a mark that already matches Donaldson’s career worst. He also falls in the 36th percentile in Outs Above Average on defense. Defensive metrics are a finicky measurement but paired with the eye test, Donaldson appears to have made some major declines in the hot corner.
Donaldson hasn’t been the caliber of player the Twins have needed in his age 35 season so far. With two and a half years left under contract, it’s not irrational to wonder if the injuries are finally catching up. That being said, it’s fair to point out that a lot of indicators are still favorable.
It’s entirely possible and even likely that Donaldson has gotten unlucky so far. That’s a lot of red to still be putting up at 35 years old. That being said, the Twins are relying on luck or whatever else is going on straightening itself out if they have plans for a shocking resurgence. Can Donaldson return to being the game changing player he was signed to be two winters ago?