Some of the latest from the Cubs-adjacent market – aka, the third base free agent market – as teams figure out just how hard to push for Josh Donaldson.
Jon Heyman reports that, although the Nationals love Kris Bryant, they are focused on Donaldson:
Nats seem focused on Josh Donaldson right now. They love Kris Bryant but the belief is the Cubs want Victor Robles, likely a no go. Could go to 4th year. Also interested in JD: Braves, dodgers, twins, rangers
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 14, 2019
I get this from the Nationals’ perspective. If you could get Donaldson on a three-year, say, $75 million deal, then you’re effectively paying $30 million to keep Victor Robles (and get an extra year of Donaldson). Is Kris Bryant likely to be better over the next two years than a 34/35-year-old Donaldson? I vote yes. Is that third year of the contract (let alone a fourth year if the bidding gets there) potentially going to be a totally sunk cost? Yes, potentially. But if you can get Donaldson and also keep a 22-year-old stud center fielder who makes peanuts and has the potential to be a solidly above-average bat and elite baserunner/defender? Could you blame the Nationals for preferring Donaldson right now?
I wouldn’t. I also wouldn’t blame the Cubs for looking over what the Nationals could offer and saying, yeah, sorry, Robles has to be atop your package or we just can’t make a deal work. I think middle infield prospect Carter Kieboom is also a potential stud, but Robles – to me – has higher upside and a higher, already-established floor. And without near-term impact pitching available to trade, I’m not sure there’s a Kieboom-plus-plus package that works.
So I guess that is to say, if you’re a huge Robles fan, you hope the Nationals don’t land Donaldson.
But if you believe Ken Rosenthal’s best guess, the Nationals not landing Donaldson means he’s going back to the Braves. That’s because Rosenthal feels like it’s going to come down to the Nationals and Braves for Donaldson, and, since we feel like the Braves could offer the best trade package for Bryant, if the Cubs go down that route, then we want the Braves in that bidding.
The Dodgers and Phillies remain wild cards in this whole process, with the Rangers telling the world that they’re out on Donaldson, but sure seeming like they’d really like to land Bryant.
But there’s another team that we haven’t discussed much, mostly because they’ve not been connected to Bryant, but they are still being connected to Donaldson:
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) December 14, 2019
So, yeah, hey, go Twins! Get that Donaldson!
In the end, it certainly feels like Donaldson was happy enough in Atlanta that if the money is close – like, if the suitors are all at three years – he’s going to return to the Braves. But if one of the teams steps up with that huge four-year, $100 million type deal? It’s hard for a guy to pass up an extra year when he’s already 34.
Obviously, once Donaldson decides, the market for Bryant will gain even more clarity, and you might start seeing rumors trickle out of substantive, specific talks, pending the resolution of the service time grievance in the coming weeks.