Bringing Back the Bringer of Rain

The season’s winding down and the Braves are in stellar position for the playoffs. There’s so much to be grateful for on a team that nearly no none outside of their own fans believed in. The offseason moves, or lack thereof, were heavily criticized, and most thought it was going to be the downfall of the team with even some top MLB analysts discussing the possibility that the Braves would finish closer to the bottom of the division than the top.

We know the story from there. They were facepalm worthy wrong and there’s a real chance that this team can get to 100 wins and even the most homerish Braves fan didn’t see that coming. So many players on this team that have exceeded expectations, but I don’t feel like there is any player on this team that exceeded expectations and provided the nudge of confidence that borders cockiness to this team more than Josh Donaldson, aka Bringer of Rain, or, as I like to know him “The Bringer of Death to the Braves Way”.

With young players coming in by the bucketloads, and many from other countries where celebration is encouraged rather than suppressed, Donaldson’s fire, passion for the game, and the confrontational approach he has to the game is, for me, as freeing of a movement that’s ever been for this franchise. After the debacle of Coppygate, Hart walking away with a slap on the wrist, and the old guard in Schuerholz, palms up in an “it wasn’t me” gesture, a movement away from “The Braves Way” was needed in order for this franchise to move forward. It is with that thought, that I believe Anthopoulos’s signing of Donaldson had as much to do with his expected performance as his attitude. This team was good last year, but with the Donaldson signing, they now know it and aren’t afraid to flaunt it. It is with this thought that I think Anthopoulos will definitely think on re-signing Donaldson to keep him around for another 3 years.

But is it possible? Let’s look at the projected payroll of 2020 and the money left to spend in order to make that call.

Update on Braves 2020 Payroll

Guaranteed Contracts (5)

Freddie Freeman: 22.5 MM
Mark Melancon: 14 MM
Ender Inciarte: 7.7 MM
Ozzie Albies: 1 MM
Ronald Acuna: 1 MM

Subtotal: 46.2 MM for 5 players

Players w/ options whom I think will be picked up (3)


Nick Markakis: 6 MM
Tyler Flowers: 6 MM
Julio Teheran: 12 MM

Subtotal: 24 MM for 3 players

Players w/ options whom I think will be declined (1)


Billy Hamilton: 1 MM buyout

Subtotal: 1 MM for 1 player

A lot of guesswork from here

Arb-eligible Players w/ Estimated 2020 Salary (Whom I think will be renewed)

Shane Greene: 5.5 MM
Mike Foltynewicz: 6.6 MM
Charlie Culberson: 2.3 MM
Dansby Swanson: 2.5 MM
Luke Jackson: 1.6 MM
Johan Camargo: 1.4 MM
Grant Dayton : 900 K

Subtotal: 20.8 MM for 7 players

Pre-Arb Players

8 players at 600K/each

Subtotal: 5.4 MM for 9 players:

Grand Total for 23 players: 96.4 MM

With payroll still coming in under 100 MM with ~23 players already taken care of, the Braves, if they so desire, definitely have money to spend to bring back Donaldson.

Building a 3-year Contract for Josh Donaldson

I think 3 years is about the longest Anthopoulos will go on any free agent in their 30’s, and while I have very little to back this up, there’s been hints of that from other media outlets outside the Braves suggesting the same. I’m going with it.

Donaldson was expected to be less on the field, both figuratively and literally. Most thought he’d play in 120ish games, make a few IL trips, and prove a solid 3B, both offensively and defensively. Hardly anyone thought he’d be a 5 WAR player mirroring his offensive production from his 2015 season with the Blue Jays, and carrying a team for stretches to, hopefully, the best record since the 14-year streak(would have to get to 97 wins).

Donaldson is still playing well-above average defensively, and debatably, he’s one of the top-5 3rd basemen in the game. With Rendon being the marquee third baseman on the 2020 market, Donaldson would likely be the fallback to everyone that misses out on Rendon. Rendon is likely looking at a 6-year deal as that would take him through his age 35 season. We’ve seen trends lately with players already in their 30’s that most teams aren’t willing to go over 3 years, but are willing to push higher AAV to grab their services. It’s in that thought that I think the Braves aren’t really going to get much of a discount in price on Donaldson, but could grab him by negotiating in a slightly sleazy way to get their guy.

The qualifying offer is sure to come to a slamming halt very soon… but not soon enough for Donaldson as it’s a near guarantee that he’ll receive one this offseason. However, I hope it’s just a matter of paperwork and that Donaldson will receive his QO, turn it down, then sign an extension with the Braves. It would be a win for Donaldson as he’ll be able to rid himself of the QO taint, and a win for the Braves who get their 3B back.

One thing that’s hard to measure is a comp to Donaldson as the free agent market has completely changed these past 3 years for players in their 30s. No one is committing 4+ years to a 33 year old anymore AND giving said 33 year old a high AAV. It’s a tradeoff and one that could work in this situation.

The offer

3/81 MM. A 27 MM/year contract would pay Donaldson to be roughly a 3.5 WAR player for the duration of the contract, and according to ZiPS, that’s about a discount of .5 WAR/year. To stay close to home and to be a part of a team that will be in the thick of the pennant race, I feel both the Braves and Donaldson would be happy with that arrangement.

Thanks for reading!

Long live Braves Journal

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

84 thoughts on “Bringing Back the Bringer of Rain”

  1. Hardly anyone thought he’d be a 5 WAR player mirroring his offensive production from his 2015 season with the Blue Jays

    Hardly anyone on other blogs, you mean!

    A few days into being a 33-year-old, Donaldson is probably not going to be MVP again, and that’s okay. His established level of performance was so high just two years ago that even with a normal decline, he’ll continue to be a very good player for the next couple of years, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could have another All-Star campaign.

    The Braves don’t need Donaldson to be Mr. Right. They just need him to be Mr. Right Now. Truly, I don’t think they could have done any better.

    https://bravesjournal.us/2018/12/17/josh-donaldson/

  2. Great piece, Ryan! I especially love the first there paragraphs because it’s why I love seeing Donaldson in a Braves uni, and why I also believe they’ve turned a corner this season.

    Regardless of rather this franchise has been good or bad, it’s often seemed to lack fire and energy. Those workman like teams they’ve had were always good, and dependable; but it just continually felt as if they lacked that swagger where they could walk onto an opposing team’s diamond, in a playoff series, and say, “we’re taking this, and you can’t stop us.” Donaldson brings that. He’s an igniter. He’s fun, and he meshes well with a young Braves team as a veteran presence.

    I really want him to return, even if they have to go 3yrs/90 million.

  3. Camargo’s injury appears likely to end his season. Hopefully he can heal up and come back strong for next season.

    In the immediate future, I wonder if it makes it more likely the Braves carry Riley in the playoffs, or go with a third catcher?

  4. JC’d

    After some deliberation, here is my attempt to assign super heroes to some of our starters. I ran out of steam before I got to the bench/bullpen so if anyone wants to tackle those, go for it. I stuck to the Marvel universe for reasons.

    Freddy Freeman – Captain America – Because Cap is a natural leader but he tends to lead more by example. He is wholesome and all American. When you need someone strong who will give everything they have, he is your guy.

    Josh Donaldson – Thor – Bringer of rain = God of Thunder? Plus he swings a mean hammer.

    Ozzie Albies – Spiderman – He’s not big but much stronger than he looks. He’s very agile and quick. And he’s a bit of a smart-ass always joking and talking smack.

    Dansby Swanson – Gambit – He’s a ladies man and has the hair. Makes strong and accurate throws and can put a charge in things.

    Tyler Flowers – Luke Cage – Impenetrable skin. One tough, strong dude who you want on your side in a fight.

    Brian McCann – Beast – On the surface just appears to be a big strong guy but his real asset is his intellect. An older guy but still plenty strong when you need it.

    Julio Tehran – Dare Devil – Lost his sight (fast ball) and now has to rely on improved other senses (pitches) to achieve incredible things.

    Nick Markakis – Iron Man – He’s one of the oldest heroes but still quite capable. Also has good leadership qualities. And since Kakes never gets days off, of course he would have to be “Iron Man”

    Ronald Acuna – Black Panther – Strong, agile, fast and if you hit him he takes the force of that blows and returns it plus some (ala home runs after being brushed back).

    Johan Camargo – I was originally thinking Sue Storm a.k.a. The Invisible Girl but I decided that was a bit cruel. Instead how about Falcon… really more of a side kick trying to be a hero. Nothing particularly special about him but he knows how to use the tools he has to greatest effect.

    Austin Riley – Bucky Barnes – Side kick to Captain America but eventually replaces Cap as he grows as a hero.

    Ender Enciarte – Night Crawler – BAMF! He just shows up where the ball is going to land. BAMF! He just shows up on 2nd base on the steal attempt. Not particularly strong but definitely quick and agile.

    Folty – Johnny Storm a.k.a. Human Torch – Throws fireballs and wears his emotions on his sleeve. Sometimes called hot head by Spiderman.

    Fried – Hawkeye – Always hits his target (this might have to be revisited).

    Soroka – Ice Man – He’s from the frozen north and he keeps his emotions in check while throwing slippery sliders and freezing batters with his curve.

    Keuchel – Dr Strange – Master of the lost mystic arts (being able to pitch to contact without being a 97+ hard throwing pitcher).

  5. Why did they put Camargo on the 10 day? That doesn’t clear a 40 man spot, does it? I thought only the 60 day cleared a 40 man spot.

  6. On the substance.

    I think the QO will hold Donaldson down a little. I think 27 for 3 is consistent with the recent market and fair. I think it leaves enough room for one more fairly big move and then the miscellaneous mid year stuff ASSUMING NO PAYROLL INCREASE.

  7. @ 10,

    But why the 10 day? If Camargo is not on 10 day, he can still play on 9 / 24. Nobody else can be added to expanded 25 man roster. Is there ANY advantage to this? Is it just to make sure Snit doesn’t put Camargo in?

  8. @11
    Think of it this way: Hypothetically, say Acuña had an injury that could keep him out a week or 2 & AA already filled the 40-man roster with a trial reliever when Camargo was transferred to 60-day IL. From there, he’d have to DFA a player to call up a replacement.

    More or less, I think it’s protection from himself.

  9. In the MLBTR chat just now, Steve Adams came out at 3/$81, as well. I’d do that. I was higher on Riley last offseason. But since the All-Star Break, Riley’s had 69 plate appearances, and in them he’s had 30 strikeouts and five walks, which makes it look like he can’t even be a regular. And Camargo isn’t a starting third baseman, either. We don’t have an in-house third-base solution. Other than bringing back JD.

  10. @13 Good Lord. All this anti-Riley talk is absolutely ridiculous just like all the Braves “doomed” talk before it. That kind of pessimism infuriates me. Riley is 22 and will be a solid regular to major star at some point. If you look a JDs numbers, he was 27 before his first MVP-candidate season.

    JD @24 = 32 OPS+
    JD @26 = 91 OPS+
    AR @22 = 92 OPS+

    I absolutely agree that we need to bring JD back on a 3 year deal, but I think it will be more like 3/75. I don’t think the Braves will pay more than that. Furthermore, I am not at all sure the Braves will go three years.

    What is the best path will be is to keep JD around until Austin figures it all out. Once Riley is at least a solid regular, then you can let JD go. That may take one or two years. But Austin is a competent outfielder too. Better right now than Nick Markakis (AR dWAR = +0.1, NM dWAR = -1.2 per BRef).

    Bringing back Nick is more of a question mark in my mind. He only deserves a spot as a bench player and protection against Pache failing. Our starting OF next year should be Acuna/Pache/Riley. Which also leaves the question about what to do with Ender. Actually, Pache and Ender might end up making a tremendous platoon next year. You could also do some platooning with Riley and Nick.

    We also need to sign a front-end rotation piece too. My money is on either Keuchel or Bumgarner. Either would be a great fit. If we don’t sign one of those two then we will be relying on both Teheran and Folty to be solid rotation pieces and then let the prospects duke it out for the 5th spot. I think Teheran and Folty should fight over the 4th spot and let the prospects have the 5th. Trade the one that doesn’t make it. Or make him long man in the bullpen.

    Then there’s the catcher situation……… Have to assume Contreras will at least be the backup. Do we keep TFlow or try to sign BMac back?

    Do we have room for two more $20+M players to be signed? JD and DK/MB?

    I also have to hope that Melancon and Greene will be good enough to allow for a full on free-for-all for bullpen slots. If we end up with Melancon/Geene/Folty in the pen then that will be a pretty expensive bullpen. Of course, add Jackson/Dayton/Newk and the bullpen is pretty full, too. And Walker and Webb.

  11. Donaldson and Riley are completely different players. If you look at the Josh Donaldson profile I wrote, I extensively quoted John Sickels who wrote about Donaldson’s development at length. What happened with him is he always had a good plate approach and strong walk rate in the minors, and more power came later.

    Riley’s the opposite: he’s always had power, but he’s always had frighteningly high strikeout rates, and he’s been persistently dogged by scouting reports of a “slider-speed” bat. As major league pitchers have found and exploited the holes in his swing, his walk rate has vanished almost to nonexistence.

    Age relative to league is important, but it isn’t the only thing. Terrell Wade was in the majors when he was 22. So was Jo-Jo Reyes. So was Kyle Davies. They all had a lot of potential, but they couldn’t control the strike zone — they gave up way too many walks, and as young pitchers, they all were out of the league long before they could ever turn their potential into results.

    Riley is a work in progress. He’s young and he’s shown the ability to adjust in the past, and I’d love to see him make adjustments. But you’re saying he’ll be a “solid regular to major star” and while I guess anything is possible, I certainly don’t think it’s remotely a sure thing.

  12. @15 I’m not ready to write Riley off at 22 years old, but I think the strikeouts will preclude him from ever being a star. Hopefully with adjustments he’ll develop into a solid regular with huge power, capable of hitting 5th or 6th in the order. That wouldn’t be a bad ceiling, either.

  13. Guys, I agree that Riley’s a work in progress and I also think he doesn’t belong on the playoff roster except as an injury replacement. But I am not going to count him out as an eventual piece of the team core. Two-three years from now the OF/3B could and should reasonably be Acuna/Waters/Pache/Riley. I think continuing to be a WS-relevant team must include Donaldson. I also think it must include a top starter until Anderson and others are ready. It’d be nice to have a shutdown closer, but I also think the bullpen is not too bad.

  14. I read somewhere they IL’d Camargo so they could bring Wilson back without having to wait 10 days after his option. Probably DOB.

  15. Rob’s Position on Austin Riley:

    April: Eh, I’m not that sold on Riley. Tons of strikeouts, extremely unproven. I would even package him up to rent Bumgarner. Flags fly forever.

    Late April: This is not looking good.

    May: OK, this is really not looking good.

    August: Alright, maybe I’m not that dumb.

    September: Maybe it’s perfectly defensible to still not be sold on Riley.

    Moral of the story: NEVER admit you’re wrong.

  16. Maybe I’m missing something, but is a 40-man roster spot needed? Kakes was on the 10-day. Touki, Wright, and Wilson are on the 40-man. Minter was 60-day’ed to make room for Dayton. We’re flush, right?

    However, I don’t buy that Camargo was IL’ed to bring Wilson back up quicker unless Camargo was in a situation where he was going to be out for another week or so, and you might as well IL him because you want Wilson.

  17. Peanut reported Camargo is out for the year, but they have not 60-day’d him yet. I think they’re weighing Ryan’s Pfeifer recommendation.

    Ozzie is something else. Acuna sees 10 pitches and Ozzie sees one.

  18. I had expressed concern about Neck’s ability to hit the ball hard coming off the broken bone. The first two of his hits were 106 and 104. So far so good.

  19. Freddie bats left and throws right. Maybe he hurt his elbow on that sliding play when he backhanded the ball and tossed it to Soroka?

  20. The faces on the gNats hitters are priceless as they see their balls caught on the warning track. They can’t believe Ozzie hit one out and none of them can. Rendon, Soto, Zimmerman – all mumbling to themselves or whoever will listen.

  21. Whatever we may think, Tyler is tenth best rated catcher in all of baseball and two of the catchers rated higher have a lower wRC+. The league is not flush with great hitting catchers who can also field their position. According to FG.

  22. And the Mets are toast as of tonight. Phils down to magic number of 1.

    And now Braves win the season series vs. the gNats.

  23. Well pic 2 wouldn’t load…ugh. Anyway

    Blevins misses spot, throws outside, but instead of flipping glove like many catchers do, Flowers slides glove over so glove opening is still facing toward K-zone, which provides illusion that ball is a strike. Granted this particular pitch was a strike anyway, but this is one of Tyler’s secrets to success.

  24. @73 No doubt. I think this is the first game in a long time where the Braves just got a bunch of hits and didn’t rely on the hits being 50% HRs. They hit like a team all up and down the lineup. It’s hard to think it’s all about Nick but he was batting 5th – right in the middle.

  25. Tonight Soroka flipped places in the ERA race with Scherzer. One more “off” performance from Ryu tomorrow and Soroka will have the lead. Go Mets.

  26. No doubt Flowers has been much improved lately (in all facets), but I’m not sold on Fangraph’s WAR stat for catchers, which is much more heavily weighted on pitch framing than bWAR.

    He has been worth 2.1 fWAR but just 0.1 bWAR (which I’m not sure counts framing at all). The truth is probably somewhere in between.

  27. Since July 28, Brian McCann has hit .188/278/250. It’s not that big of a sample size, as it’s only 19 games played and 72 PA, but one has to start worrying if he has anything left.

  28. Regarding Braves as superheroes, it seems worth noting that the alter-ego of Captain Marvel Jr. (sidekick to the DC comics Captain Marvel now know as Shazam) is Frederick “Freddy” C. Freeman.

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