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The Daily Chop: Where should Braves turn if Josh Donaldson signs elsewhere

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Atlanta can fill the hole at third base internally but replacing Donaldson in the lineup won’t be easy.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The wait goes on for Josh Donaldson and even though you may be tired of reading about it, a resolution may not be coming anytime soon. The latest bit of news on Thursday was that the Braves are among the team who have offered four-year deals to Donaldson according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and later confirmed by The Athletic’s David O’Brien.

The thinking for most of the offseason is that Donaldson and the Braves have a shared interest in a reunion so you might be wondering why a deal hasn’t been reached if Atlanta is in fact willing to offer a four-year deal. Well all four-year deals might not be created equally. O’Brien predicted last week that the Braves would land Donaldson on a three-year deal with a higher average annual value that also included a fourth-year option with a significant buyout. Given that a four-year pact would take Donaldson through his age 38 season, it would make sense for the Braves to seek some sort of protection for that final season so that thought at least seems reasonable.

There also isn’t any reason for Donaldson and his representatives to hurry. He is clearly the biggest name free agent still on the market and he has the luxury of waiting out the Nationals, Braves, Twins or someone else for their best offer.

An interesting exercise is considering what a “plan B” might look like for Atlanta should Donaldson end up elsewhere. The team has some internal options at third base with Johan Camargo and Austin Riley. The Braves could open the season with Camargo at third and opt to start Riley at Triple-A in hopes that he can address some of the late season struggles of his rookie season. However, that scenario doesn’t address the gaping hole in the team’s lineup that would be created by Donaldson’s departure. A blockbuster trade for Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado would also seem to be on the table but there would be hurdles that would need to be cleared in either case. Additionally, both Bryant and Arenado might still be available at the trade deadline.

Another plausible outcome would be revisiting the team’s outfield situation and adding a free agent option like Nicholas Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna to the mix. Such a move wouldn’t help the team’s defense any but would bring some offense back to the table.

One thing is for sure, the next six weeks leading up to spring training are going to be interesting.

More Braves News

If the Braves miss on Donaldson, then trading for an Arenado might seem like the best possible scenario but there are several other factors that must be considered.

He is still a long way from election but Andruw Jones has seen an encouraging increase in support this Hall of Fame voting cycle.

ESPN’s Buster Olney ranks his Top 10 starting pitchers for 2020 with Gerrit Cole checking in at No. 1. Atlanta’s Mike Soroka garnered mention in the best of the rest section.

MLB Pipeline picks one breakout prospect for each team in 2020 with first baseman Bryce Ball earning the nod for Atlanta. The Braves drafted Ball in the 24th round last summer and he hit 17 home runs between Danville and Rome in his pro debut.

Hot Stove

MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have engaged the Boston Red Sox in trade discussions centered on outfielder Mookie Betts and starter David Price. The Dodgers had been previously linked to the Indians and shortstop Francisco Lindor but those talks seem to have stalled due to LA’s unwillingness to include Gavin Lux in any trade package. Price is owed roughly $96 million over the next three seasons. Boston is reportedly eyeing pitching prospects Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin as part of a potential return.

SB Nation’s Eric Stephen writes that young players like Betts being available for trade is a problem that the league must solve.

Morosi also reports that there is “roughly a 50/50 chance” that the Colorado Rockies deal third baseman Nolan Arenado. While there are a number of obstacles that would have to be cleared in any deal for Arenado, the Rockies would seem to be best served to wait and see what happens with Josh Donaldson. Teams such as the Rangers, Braves and Dodgers have been linked with others reportedly in the mix as well.

The Washington Nationals agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal with reliever Will Harris.

The Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers are the frontrunners to land free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

The Red Sox agreed to a one-year deal with free agent catcher Kevin Plawecki. Plawecki appeared in 59 games with Cleveland last season. He is expected to serve as the team’s backup behind starter Christian Vazquez. Boston designated first baseman Sam Travis for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Not really hot stove material but notable nonetheless, the White Sox announced Thursday that they have agreed to a six-year, $50 million deal with star prospect Luis Robert. The deal also includes a pair of team options. This paves the way for Robert to open the season with the big league club.

More MLB News

Yankees right-hander Domingo German received an 81-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Thursday for violating the league’s Domestic Violence Policy. German sat out New York’s nine final regular season games and their nine playoff games. He will sit out the first 63 games of this season and won’t be eligible to return until June.