Should the Texas Rangers rejoin the race for free agent Josh Donaldson despite reports that they’ve been priced out of the veteran’s market?
After losing out on Anthony Rendon earlier this offseason, the Texas Rangers natural attention shift was to the next best free agent third baseman on the market, Josh Donaldson. however much to the dismay of fans, not long after attention shifted to the 34-year old, reports from various outlets stated that Texas was out on Donaldson due to price and would yet again shift their attention elsewhere. All that news surfaced during the Winter Meetings which feels like ages ago, but now, just a few weeks later, Donaldson remains unsigned. Is it time for Texas to take another look at Donaldson and rejoin the race for his signing?
The Texas Rangers, despite their efforts, still remain without a legitimate third baseman for the 2020 season. A deal for Nolan Arenado seems the most discussed rumor right now but trading for the perennial All-Star is far easier said than done at this point. With that avenue no guarantee and no other impact third baseman seemingly available to Texas, the club should circle back around to Josh Donaldson.
Donaldson remains unsigned despite plenty of interest and it seems he may be waiting on the Atlanta Braves, with whom he spent the 2019 season, to make an offer. However, Atlanta seems to be waiting on the Kris Bryant grievance against the Cubs which could reduce his two years of arbitration remains down to just one. With the Braves focused elsewhere, the door could be open for Texas to make their approach.
Donaldson was superb in his bounce back season with Atlanta last year. The veteran hit .259 with a .900 OPS last season in 155 games. He hit 37 home runs and drove in 94 games for Atlanta and finished the year with a 4.9 fWAR which was 8th among third basemen per FanGraphs last year. His bat made the headlines but he was solid with the glove as well, posting a 2.1 UZR/150 in 1297 innings.
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The Rangers reported qualms with pursuing Donaldson stems from the length of his desired contract which is expected to be four years. Texas was hesitant to offer that to a veteran heading into his mid-30’s which is a fair concern. However, Donaldson showed that he’s still very capable defensively which is usually the first tool to drop off as a player ages.
For Texas to pursue Donaldson, they’ll have to look towards what he can bring, rather than what they’re afraid might happen. If Donaldson were a Ranger, he would need to be capable of playing everyday third base for at least two years of his potential four year deal. Then, if he could transition to first base/DH duties while maintaining his hitting ability, he could stay a cornerstone middle of the order bat for the Rangers.
To get Donaldson, it likely is going to take a four year deal in the neighborhood of $100 million. While that pill is hard to swallow, it’s far easier than dealing with the potential of leaving this offseason without an impact player at the hot corner. We likely won’t see any movement on the Josh Donaldson market until the Kris Bryant service time issue is resolved but the Rangers should definitely circle back and make another run at Donaldson.