We have been waiting on the Atlanta Braves to make a splash addition for what seems like forever now but they came through on Monday with the signing of Josh Donaldson and to a lesser extent, Brian McCann. Donaldson agreed to a one-year, $23 million deal and will attempt to reestablish his value after an injury plagued 2018 season.
It is a win-win for the Braves in that the signing doesn’t bring a lot of risk and carries a lot of upside. Yes it currently displaces Johan Camargo as the team’s starter at third but it recasts him as a super utility type of player. Think of a cheaper Marwin Gonzalez type who has the ability to see regular at bats and the versatility to play defensively all over the diamond. Improving the bench was a priority this offseason and this certainly helps in that regard.
As our own Demetrius Bell put it, this was a move the Braves simply had to make and we will all have to see how it pays off. In the meantime, here is what a few other prominent sites have to say about the acquisition.
FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards calls the Donaldson signing a “bargain” and points out that if he hits his projections it will be a significant upgrade at third base.
For the Braves–as well as many other teams that didn’t sign Donaldson–this deal is pretty close to a no-brainer. The club came out of its rebuild in a very strong position last year and surprised many by winning the division. There should be a lot of competition in their quest to repeat, as Philadelphia is expected to spend big this winter, and the Nationals will still have a solid core even with the likely departure of Bryce Harper. The Braves were able to take advantage of the Phillies fading and the Nationals falling apart in 2018, but it might take more than 90 wins to take the division a year from now. Donaldson could greatly help that cause.
Baseball Propsectus writer Matthew Trueblood echoes that sentiment while adding a little insight on Alex Anthopoulos’ history for deal making.
Donaldson offers a much more dynamic risk profile, but a simpler one. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason not to expect him to rake. Even when he played last year, his power was seriously sapped (a still-impressive .203 ISO represented a major step back from the .274 he averaged in his first three seasons with the Jays), and that presents a real risk that simple projection systems will underrate. However, if the Braves believe that decrease in pop stemmed from the compromised state of Donaldson’s lower half, and if he’s going to be healthy going into 2019, then he could easily bounce back in that department.
ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield on how a one-year deal is good news for both Donaldson and the Braves.
A one-year contract gives Donaldson the opportunity to prove he’s healthy and still one of the best all-around players in the game, and then re-enter free agency after 2019. For the Braves, a one-year contract is a low-risk deal for a player who could provide a right-handed power bat to support Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. in the lineup. Even with Acuna’s impressive 26-homer rookie season, the Braves ranked just 19th in the majors in home runs from the right side.
All indications are that the Braves aren’t finished either. They could still add a free agent corner outfielder and could still pull off a trade or two to bolster the pitching staff. Signing Donaldson carries some risk but that risk is confined to just one season. Provided he is healthy, then the Braves have made a significant upgrade without parting with a single prospect. That is a clear win in my book.