ATLANTA — Alex Anthopoulos, then the general manager of the Blue Jays, took a chance on Josh Donaldson and then promptly watched the third baseman establish himself as the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2015.
Nearly four years to the date of the Nov. 28, 2014, trade that brought Donaldson to Toronto, Anthopoulos reunited with the third baseman, who will attempt to re-establish his long-term value while helping the Braves with their attempt to become a legitimate World Series contender.
Hours after reuniting with catcher Brian McCann on Monday afternoon, the Braves announced that they signed Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million contract.
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Donaldson will draw the same salary he did while spending this past season with the Blue Jays and Indians. He stood as one of baseball’s most productive offensive threats before injury woes forced him to miss time over the past two seasons. He missed six weeks of the 2017 season with a strained right calf, and a right shoulder ailment sidelined him for three weeks in ’18 before a left calf strain put him on the disabled list for about three months.
Donaldson hit .246 with eight homers and a .801 OPS over 52 games in 2018. He produced a .920 OPS over his final 60 plate appearances after he came off the DL with the Indians on Sept. 11.
Anthopoulos ended his tenure with the Blue Jays after the 2015 season. But the one season he spent with Donaldson provided him reason to believe the right-handed slugger has the capability to extend his status as one of the game’s best power threats.
Despite playing just 113 games in 2017, Donaldson still tallied 33 home runs over 415 at-bats (a 12.6 at-bat-to-homer ratio). The Auburn University product produced a .946 OPS as he averaged 37 homers per season from 2015-17.
Donaldson can serve as the right-handed protection Freddie Freeman only briefly experienced during the healthy portion of Matt Kemp‘s short stay in Atlanta. With Freeman and a healthy Donaldson, the Braves have the potential to possess one of the game’s most feared middle-of-the-lineup duos.
With Donaldson set to serve as Atlanta’s third baseman, the Braves now have to decide how to utilize the versatile Johan Camargo. Anthopoulos said he doesn’t have plans to trade any of his players and hinted at the possibility of using this acquisition to satisfy his need for bench depth.
But this acquisition does at least create the option for the Braves to include Camargo, shortstop Dansby Swanson or second baseman Ozzie Albies as part of a significant trade that could satisfy the team’s wish to add a front-line starting pitcher.
Donaldson’s arrival also provides the Braves a chance to remain patient with promising third-base prospect Austin Riley, who also could draw interest on the trade market.
Donaldson was ineligible for a qualifying offer because he was traded midseason this year. But if he spends all of 2019 with the Braves, he can receive a qualifying offer. This would create the possibility for Atlanta to receive a compensatory Draft pick if he were to sign elsewhere for the ’20 season.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.