Last night, Jon Heyman and Bob Nightengale combined to suggest that the Nationals were the most serious suitor on Josh Donaldson, with Nightengale going so far as to suggest the Nationals might go to four years and $90 million, quite a bit more than Donaldson had been projected for. (Tell me again how the Kris Bryant market is soft. *eye roll*)
Ken Rosenthal adds some additional confirmation this morning, making you all the more HIGH ALERT for a deal coming down the pike:
On the Donaldson market: #Dodgers still in, but teams in bidding fear #Nationals will go big on either a four-year deal or three-year contract with a high AAV. A four-year deal would extend through Donaldson’s age 37 season.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 17, 2019
The “Dodgers still in” part is perhaps more interesting for the idea that they could still be in on a Bryant pursuit than for Donaldson, specifically, as has always felt like Donaldson mostly just wanted to return to the Braves. Maybe that’s just me being wrong, but if I’m not wrong, then a report like this still feels like the Nationals (and Donaldson’s reps) working very hard to get the Braves to add that fourth year on a reasonable AAV. It just reads so much like a threat to the Braves from the Nats: “Ooooh, buddies, if you don’t go much bigger on this guy who was awesome for you and wants to return, we’re gonna just tack on that fourth year and you’ll have to face him 19 times this season on a loaded rival!!! YOU BETTER!!!”
Either way, it does feel like this is going to reach a resolution before Christmas (the timeline so many players want to go by, and for those with an established and robust market, they can get it done). The only plausible hold up would be if one or more of the involved teams are actually doing the reverse of what we’re expecting: they’re waiting on a Bryant resolution before putting out best and final offers on Donaldson. If that were true, and if the Braves were one of those teams, then it isn’t impossible to imagine them asking Donaldson to wait a little longer to see if a Bryant deal happens first (either because a team goes nuts, or because the service time grievance is finally decided and a deal is consummated quickly).
Since teams virtually always prefer to go after free agents before sacrificing other talent in trade, I tend to think that’s not the case – i.e., I think Donaldson is decided before Bryant trade talks even get serious, much less before a trade is consummated. But I guess we’ll find out in time.
For now, I’d tentatively be on alert for a Donaldson signing this week. The known suitors are the Nationals, Braves, Dodgers, Phillies, Rangers, and Twins (all to varying degrees, depending on who you believe).