The San Diego Padres are reportedly looking for a third base option for the 2019 season. But why not take a chance on Josh Donaldson, who is only a few years removed from his MVP season and could provide a lot of thunder to the Friars?
To many Padres fans, the Wil Myers experiment at third base has been an overwhelming failure.
Most don’t see him, or anyone in the farm system, as a reliable long-term solution at the position. As a result, there has been a solid amount of trade rumors revolving around who the Friars should employ at the hot corner during the 2019 season.
Some of the more popular names circling about are Maikel Franco and Eugenio Suarez. Both are young guns with good upside, especially on offense; however, the former player is often underwhelming at the plate and in the field while the latter one is expensive to acquire in terms of prospects.
Whether there could there be a valuable third baseman who would allow the Padres to experience the full benefits of its number one farm system is thus an important question to ask and determine. As matters currently stand, there is one notable player on the free agent market who isn’t discussed at length by Padres’ management, but who could provide the team with great production. He is the 2015 MVP winner and second highest WAR leader since 2012, Josh Donaldson.
Within this article, I hope to incite a discussion on whether Preller should look at Donaldson as a possible fit in Petco Park.
First, we all know the amount of talent the “Bringer of Rain” has. By every measure, he is an absolute stud.
Since gaining a regular player’s workload with the Oakland Athletics in 2013, Donaldson has consistently put up WAR seasons greater than five. In his MVP year alone, he was worth 8.7 wins above replacement. These totals are supported by his strong mix of offensive and defensive capabilities. At the plate, the right-handed batter accumulated a triple slash line of .280/.375/.895 with 172 home runs and a 143 OPS+ between 2013-2018. This is factoring in the injury-marred year he had in 2018 when he was limited to only 219 plate appearances (187 at-bats) and struggled to perform after returning from the disabled list with a strained left calf.
In the past six seasons, Josh Donaldson has also been an incredible asset on defense. His outstanding range and strong arm yielded a combined 53 defensive runs saved and 30.3 UZR within the time period. In other words, both advanced metrics agree that the third baseman has been well above-average when it comes to fielding. With excellence on both sides of the ball, Donaldson has long been understood to be one of the game’s premier superstars.
Sadly, 2018 has cut into Donaldson’s reputation as one of baseball’s best representatives. Before the season began, the notion that the Blue Jay was an elite talent was unquestionable. He had always been a contender for all-star nominations and MVP awards. However, after combining a low .238 batting average and only five homers in 36 games with a second year of battling injuries, Donaldson has lost some of his glory.
The idea that one year, especially one defined by uncontrollable injuries, can put a star’s free agency into questionable territory is quite harsh. Yet it is reality, and will limit his potential earnings on the market. The fact that he will also be 33 before Opening Day 2019 does not help his stock. As a result, he will have to settle either for lower average annual salary or fewer years in the overall length of a contract.
In order to get the best contract he can, the third baseman may want to sign with a team that has tons of positional flexibility and payroll space. Competitive teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, Rays, and Cubs are not the best fits for him because of their inability to meet these demands without adjustments. In contrast, the Padres can because they don’t have a legitimate third baseman, they don’t have many payroll commitments, and they don’t have to be competitive next year. But the Friars would still seem reasonable if they signed Donaldson because they have their eyes on competing in 2020.
Since Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon will be younger and more valuable free agents in that offseason, Donaldson would be wise to avoid a one-year contract. On a two-year deal then, the MVP could contribute to the first competitive Padres team in a decade before possibly leaving. He may even be intrigued by the idea of playing in a competitive clubhouse for the remainder of his career. Sure he may demand a huge extension, but if he plays to his full potential, then he would be worth a large investment. The former Blue Jay could serve many crucial roles on the team. He could be an exciting stopgap for Hudson Potts, a great extension candidate if the prospect fails, and a spectacular leader for the young team. He has been on multiple playoff teams before and contributed more in the postseason than the team’s supposed leader, Eric Hosmer, ever did. He is a leader the Padres really need.
An argument against signing Donaldson to any deal, especially a long-term deal involves the player’s age. He is an old free agent this year at 32 and can only logically play for another seven years. Those years will probably not be his best. In fact, he may not be more than an average player. But the club has plenty of money to take on a risk, and could benefit greatly from it. This wouldn’t be another Eric Hosmer situation either because the third baseman has produced a lot more consistent and inspiring statistics on both offense and defense. He has never been overrated like Hosmer, and thus should be a smarter investment. Lastly, age doesn’t always mean a steep decline in value. For example, Adrian Beltre has been going strong throughout his late 30’s and has won gold gloves at an age Donaldson hasn’t even reached yet.
Given this context, the Padres should pounce at the idea of having one of the best players in recent years. The city hasn’t posted an MVP at the position since Ken Caminiti in 1996. Bringing one in would be tremendously exciting for fans, including those who have run out of patience waiting for a front office that would truly take the Padre back to the playoffs. The acquisition would be more reassurance that the team fully intends to compete by 2020 at the earliest. The stigma of being a farm team for other clubs will be further torn down and the team would be far more competitive in years to come with a healthy Josh Donaldson on board.