Report: Nationals among teams interested in Josh Donaldson

Chris Lingebach
November 12, 2019 - 8:27 pm
Report: Nationals among teams interested in Josh Donaldson

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The Washington Nationals may be targeting free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson as their backup plan to Anthony Rendon.

According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, the World Series champion Nationals are among at least six teams interested in Donaldson, who is coming off a fantastic bounce-back season in Atlanta, where he slashed .259/.379/.521 with 33 doubles, 37 homers, 94 RBI, 100 walks and a .900 OPS. The 2015 AL MVP will be 34 when the 2020 season begins.

The Nats, Rangers, Phillies and Braves are "chief among" those teams interested in Donaldson, Feinsand reports.

While Rendon, 29, an MVP candidate who's coming off a monster season and was a huge part of the Nats' championship run, will clearly have a ton of suitors on the open market, it's still unclear how much others will be willing to pay him. His closest comp is 28-year-old Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who signed a $260 million extension in the spring to stay in Colorado for the next eight years.

That's an average annual value (AAV) of $32.5 million for Arenado, who never tested free agency. By comparison, Bryce Harper, who signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies last offseason, who left the Nationals for a $25.4 million AAV. Harper took less money annually for a longer term.

Each player values things differently, but if Rendon's floor is Harper's AAV and his ceiling Arenado's, or higher, the Nationals will have to break the bank to re-sign Rendon. Perhaps they view Donaldson, who made $23 million with the Braves in 2019, as a cheaper option with similar production. Rendon slashed .319/.412/.598 for a 1.010 OPS, with 44 doubles, 34 homers, 126 RBI and 80 walks.

Donaldson, who's older and clearly didn't excel across the board offensively as much as Rendon did, still put up similar power numbers and turned out a strong season defensively. If Donaldson ends up costing $9.5 million less (the difference between him and Arenado in AAV) over a shorter term, and is the difference between bringing Stephen Strasburg back or not, the Nats could view Donaldson – even at $23 million – as a quite the bargain.

That would also require betting on another aging veteran to not drop off, the same strategy the Nationals employed to win the World Series.

It's worth mentioning that, as the GM Meetings are underway in Arizona, many early offseason reports often prove fleeting, and many discussions held this week will serve as a baseline for more substantial discussions at the Winter Meetings in San Diego (Dec. 9-12).

Regarding Rendon and Strasburg, it's also worth reminding they share the same agent, Scott Boras. Nats GM Mike Rizzo says he'll likely meet with Boras regarding both clients this week.

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