2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Josh Donaldson

It was November 26, 2018, when the Braves brought rain to the city of Atlanta…23 million dollars worth on a 1-year bounceback deal. Josh Donaldson was everything the Braves could’ve hoped for in their 23 million dollar investment: healthy, productive, and cocky enough to bring the end to the old Braves way and usher in a new exciting form of baseball that challenges other teams mentalities.

My, How the Turntables

On April 11th, 2019, a mere 12 games into his season, Josh Donaldson was not putting up the stats of a player who put up gaudy numbers with the Blue Jays prior to a combination of heel, calf, and shoulder injuries robbed a full season of games from him between 2017 and 2018. He was carrying a .570 OPS, but it was a fluke .570. He was smashing the ball, but Donaldson, who was a bit of a pioneer in the launch angle revolution, was having groundball tendencies. Yeah…that didn’t last long. Fangraphs points to a split from 6/1, but I’m of full belief that it changed much earlier than that. From April 12th through the end of the month, Donaldson destroyed baseballs: 17 hits, 5 doubles, 5 home runs, and a 1.141 OPS and he was having no problem elevating the ball.

Hey Everyone! Jump on My Back!

From April 12th through season’s end, JD put up a .925 OPS that was carried largely by his 30 doubles, 37 HRs and a whopping 97 walks. He went through huge stretches where he simply carried the team.

  • July 3-15: Braves won 8 of 9 and Josh carried a 1.324 OPS
  • August 17-25: Braves won 8 straight and Josh carried a 1.033 OPS
  • August 30-September 7: Braves won 8 straight games and Josh carried a 1.472 OPS

Must be Turkey Season because Josh is a Gobbler!

Defensively, Josh Donaldson was as good as he’s ever been with +15 defensive runs saved, and I believe he earned every bit of that. His range might be the one thing that’s lacking from his Oakland days, but range at 3B isn’t near as important as instinct, reaction, and arm strength, and he’s still checks all those boxes.

Ryan Cothran, MLB Conspirator

I have a theory. A theory that I think has a large chance of happening and happening very early into the offseason. The Braves will offer Josh Donaldson a qualifying offer. This is about as much of a guarantee as raspberries going rotten the day after I purchase them. However, I think it’s just going to be a favor to Donaldson. Naturally, he’ll decline it, and I think the next step is he re-signs with the Braves. I put up a piece a while back regarding this theory and what I thought it might take to secure him: 3/81. In my opinion, that would get it done and we as Braves fans sure do need him to keep bringing rain through 2022.

Thanks for reading!
Long Live Braves Journal!

Author: Ryan Cothran

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

38 thoughts on “2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Josh Donaldson”

  1. Ryan, Please explain why the qualifying offer would be a “favor” to JD. Limiting the teams who would be willing to pay him wouldn’t seem to be a favor. Are you suggesting that he wants to return to the Braves rather than collect a bit more money, or maybe an additional year? Hope you’re right!

  2. @1
    If the Braves offer JD a QO, he rejects it, then they re-sign him soon after, he’ll never be allowed a QO again and that would be a huge positive for JD going into his next contract.

  3. Pay him the money. The edge and confidence he brought are as much a part of his value as his actual production. He seems like a dude his teammates love as well and a perfect fit for what we need moving forward.

  4. I’m going to be out on a limb I think, but my feeling is that 3/$60 million gets it done given JD’s age and injury history and a QO attached. I just don’t think that many teams will lineup to pay even what Atlanta paid last year for more than 2 years for a 34 year old.

    I partly say this because that is the most I would give him. I know this was a “rebuild you value year” for Donaldson, but teams just don’t pony up for aging sluggers like JD anymore, I actually think 3/$60 may be too high.

  5. I’m all aboard at 3yr/81 million. I’m actually all aboard for whatever dollar amount gets a deal done, I don’t much care. Donaldson fits this team like a glove in so many ways. I’m not the least bit interested in seeing the Braves try to hunt a bargain point with him. Give the man all the money, and get it done!

  6. While I appreciate the “it’s not my money” crowd, you folks do realize that the budget will ultimately be set somewhere right? Giving $27 mill per year could leave about $12 to spend this year (based on Ryan C’s work from the previous post) and that was assuming we decline Julio’s option and trade Ender without eating $.

  7. @7 I do, and I’m cool with Josh eating the bulk of that pie. I wish the pie was a little more ample, but that’s another story for another day.

  8. I think any conversation has to start with what percentage of 33 y/o Josh’s output do you think we will get from 34 y/o Josh, 35 y/o Josh, and 36 y/o Josh?

    It might be 100%, but that’s not the way to bet.

  9. There are four players last offseason who made more than $20M AAV: Machado, Harper, Corbin, and Donaldson. That’s it. It’s very possible that Donaldson ends up with only 3YR/$60M.

    People want to highlight Kimbrel and Keuchel for their historically unique negotiating process, but everybody short of Harper, Machado, and Corbin suffered the consequences of owners pushing back on salaries, and you could make the argument that Donaldson’s 1 year deal was evidence of that too. Obviously the qualifying offer decreasing is the real smoking gun.

    I guess there are some outliers, like Andrew McCutchen’s 3YR/$50M deal when he was already suffering a defensive decline and he was 32, but I think I’ve come around on even thinking that you could decline Julio’s option, pay him $2M, and bring him back for less than $9M, which would be a net decrease for him.

  10. Three years of Donaldson locked in also means they could flip Riley to fill a need. For me, that’s the pen and a SP capable of pairing with Sork atop the rotation. I’m not as concerned about catcher as some, I gather. There’s two young OFs on the way up, so no heavy lifting to be done there.

  11. Considering how much time Ender, Nick, Camargo, Culberson, and Dansby missed last year, I wouldn’t necessarily be concerned with signing player X so you can flip player Y. One, we will probably need Riley at some point. Two, if he is good enough to play, he should find himself into the lineup semi-regularly, or you need to just fire Snit.

    By the way, it’s almost becoming comical to think that if someone is not penciled into the Opening Day lineup, they don’t seem to have a shot at getting regular PAs. That’s just a troubling thing to accept considering how the elite teams are using their benches.

  12. @9 I don’t envision his bat declining that much. The average might tick down a bit, and he might grow slower still on the bases; but that’s fine by me. Will 36 yr old Josh still be solid on 3B? That I can’t say. I really am not worried about it, though. If 34 yr old Josh helps win a WS, or even just get there and teach the young players how, I got no issue if 36 yr old Josh drops off some.

  13. To be clear, I’m not saying they shouldn’t trade Riley, but I just think it ought to be an independent decision from whether or not they sign Donaldson. We still don’t have two corner outfielders we like, after all.

  14. @12 Well fingers crossed, of the five you mentioned, only the latter 3 are on the team next season.

    I’m not saying they must flip Riley, but the option would be there.

    As for your last point about the bench, that’s Snit. I guarantee if Markakis is on the team next year, he’s playing close to 162. Every regular will except the catchers, maybe Dansby, and the LF if they’re platooning. Snit will have learned nothing. They can rest when they’re on the IL, I guess.

  15. I was already for the Nats (I don’t enjoy teams winning again that just won recently), but the episode reported by SI and the Astros subsequent response, sure does make it easier to have a rooting interest against them. Though I should mention that McCann throwing out the first pitch to Gattis is pretty cool.

    Anyway it’s hard to say this on here but go Nats #stayinthefight

  16. I don’t see Josh Donaldson getting a significant pay raise on a multi-year deal. He already did a 1-year “make good” deal that was definitely not at a discounted price. He proved himself. He’s not peak Josh Donaldson anymore, probably, and I think that interested teams are going to view him through the lens of how much he has left. He might get $24M in 2020, but his AAV on a multi-year deal is going to reflect risk.

    What’s more: Donaldson’s good season was with the new baseball. What would his numbers look like without it? There’s a very real possibility that you’re paying for 80% of last year’s production just because of the baseball. I’ve said it a couple of times that there are some players who are going to be shocked if they go back to the old baseball. LOL Not that I think JD is one of them, since he absolutely destroys baseballs, but you have to expect a drop in power with the old baseball (maybe 10-15% fewer home runs).

  17. I dislike the sign JD – trade Riley logic if it’s a let’s get what the market gives trade.

    Austin is young, and the pitchers started spinning them; but Riley has a lot of upside. If he’s required to fill a bigger hole, well, trade him. Don’t do it just to be rid of him.

    That said, Austin was pretty bad after the hot start.

    Edit: with Dusty, go Nats.

  18. Why don’t understand is why the heck the assistant GM yelled that right after Osuna blew a save. What sense does that make? Am I missing something?

  19. I don’t think I’m rooting for anyone in this series. I don’t hate the Nats, and I don’t hate the Astros. I’m pretty much just rooting for Jose Altuve and Max Scherzer to have a great series since I think it’s good for Altuve to be amazing on the big stage and for such a zany person like Scherzer to do the same. When my Braves can’t win, I tend to vote for what is best for the game. Accordingly, I don’t think voting for the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers is ever good for the game.

  20. 20-That’s what is a shame about the whole Astros story (which is really only such a big story because of how horribly the team responded).

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/mlb/brandon-taubmans-behavior-was-intolerable-the-astros-response-is-reprehensible/2019/10/22/7d9a9d5a-f4e2-11e9-8cf0-4cc99f74d127_story.html

    This should really be about, perhaps, the greatest collection of starting pitchers ever to pitch in one World Series.

    https://www.cooperstowncred.com/world-series-2019-full-of-future-hall-of-fame-pitchers/

  21. @19 Sarcasm is lost in text. And in this present age of sensitive people, you can bet that sarcasm is totally lost on them.

  22. So it was sarcasm by the assistant GM? He didn’t mean that he was really happy they got Osuna? And this is all been a misunderstanding? I don’t understand, and I don’t have the time to sift through Twitter to see what all of the morons are saying about it.

  23. Eh, I’ve been burned out by the constant outrage over the last several years. Domestic abusers and their enablers don’t belong in baseball, but only voting with your feet will change it. What I’m more curious about is how a 34-year-old with a banking background lands a job with a MLB front office and gets four promotions in three years.

  24. Third basemen, especially high performing third basemen, tend to age well. The most recent example is Beltre. I think the risk is less now that JD has had another fully healthy season. There’s every reason to believe Donaldson can mash all the way up to his 40th birthday. It’s a good, really good risk.

    Also, trading Riley would be an exceptionally bad idea. Riley has shown us his upside already. What he has not done is prove that he can adapt to pitcher strategies. And he needs to develop a better eye at the plate. He could really do with some additional time at AAA to get his groove back and develop additional skills. That worked pretty well with Duvall even after he had been an All Star and had multiple successful years in the majors. Signing Donaldson gives 22-YEAR OLD Austin Riley more time to develop. Not only that but Riley put up some of our best defensive numbers in LF.

    Also, there is exactly 0% chance we trade Ender until Pache takes over CF. In fact, I still think and would lobby for a platoon with Pache and Ender leaning heavily on Pache early on because we know Ender won’t hit early. Pache has to be on the 40-man to avoid Rule 5 and can be sent back to the minors if he doesn’t play well enough early on.

    Contrary to what many people say, I think it’s a good idea and positive for development to throw a player prospect out for a few weeks to see first hand what additional skills he might need to develop to succeed at the MLB level. He can go back to the minors with a better feel for what he needs to do to progress.

  25. I also agree that we should choose between a Markakis or a Joyce and sign one but not both. And make it clear they are strictly a platoon or bench option. If AA feels like he will play Markakis 162 then he should not sign him.

    There have been quite a few cases of players having unexpected resurgences only to dig down and find they did it because they became part time players (Joyce may be one). Cal Ripkin is the best example. The year he ended his games played streak, he played 86 games and hit .340 at 38 years old with the highest OPS of his career. If we had Markakis playing 86 games in a year, he might astonish us with production we could not possibly expect.

    We should be going with an OF platoon of Duvall/Markakis in LF and Pache/Ender in CF and let Acuna play RF full time.

  26. Oh, and by the way, if we can’t sign Grandal, then we should do the same with Contreras. Let him share catcher with Flowers. Maybe, Flowers could teach him a few things and Contreras could show us how ready he is for the majors. If we sign Grandal then Contreras is our trade bait not Riley.

    Donaldson, Grandal, and Keuchel will be the best non-QO FA players the Braves could sign (Donaldson meaning he wouldn’t cost the Braves a prospect when he would cost a prospect for everyone else). These are the Braves’ targets or a trade.

    A Donaldson and Grandal signing would indicate the FO is ready to play with the big boys and win a WS.

  27. @3 Ryan, I don’t see how the elimination of a possible future QO would be such a huge positive to Donaldson. If he signs with us for 3 years, he’s going to be going into his age 37 season at the end of that contract, and it’s not likely he’s going to get a QO anyway, is it?

  28. Chipper was on DOB and EOF’s podcast on The Athletic.

    Most interesting thing was regarding Acuna. Chipper says the fact that Acuna was “thrown under the bus” in the media for not hustling tells him that it’s something that’s been addressed numerous times within the clubhouse and the message ain’t getting through.

    EOF and DOB are really on board with the Braves moving heaven and earth to get Martin Prado on the coaching staff.

  29. @25 Is it possible that the GM and his assistant weren’t in agreement on Osuna? From the limited bit that I read, the organization was divided on it.

    “Man, I sure am glad we got Osuna!” said right after he blew a save. That sounds like sarcasm to me.

  30. @31
    Point 1: Providing JD a QO then letting him walk will likely cost him millions of dollars.

    Point 2: If the Braves were to give JD a QO, then give him what he really wants, which is likely to stay close to home on a 3 year deal for a good AAV, all the while taking the headache of a future QO way, that’s a serious plus for JD.

  31. I wonder if the #Braves would entertain bringing Cervelli back. Seemed like a good fit, and with the 26th man as a thing in 2020, it could be a good strategy to keep a 3rd catcher permanently on the roster. Heck, 3 veteran catchers splitting time would be pretty cool.

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