ATLANTA, Ga – Now that the holidays are over and a new year is upon us, the sprint to Spring Training is officially on. With pitchers and catchers set to report in about six weeks, there’s still a few questions about how the club will round out its roster, most notably at third base. Josh Donaldson is said to be seeking a four year commitment, with the Braves, Nationals and Dodgers remaining the most likely landing spots. The Rangers had been seeking to make a splash, but appear to have balked at a deal of that length. I’ve thought all along the Braves will find a way to make a Donaldson return a reality, but for argument’s sake, let’s explore the options the club would have IF he opted to sign elsewhere.
Internally, Johan Camargo and Austin Riley would be the two most logical candidates. Camargo would likely have the inside track because of his glove, arm and range. Ideally, the Braves see Riley starting the year at Triple-A to get more seasoning at the plate. It’s no secret he struggled with breaking balls down and away after his torrid jump to the Big Leagues. If this was the case, I’d fully expect the team to find their cleanup hitter via trade or free agency as a corner outfielder to compliment Nick Markakis.
As far as external third base candidates go, Kris Bryant’s name has become a popular one this offseason as the Cubs try to decide what direction they’re going with some of their core players. Yes, Bryant would be a great addition, but also has a grievance sitting out there regarding service time. He’d command a kings ransom of prospects in return, and would only be under team control for one or two years. I’d find it hard to believe Alex Anthopoulos would mortgage the farm for one or two years of Bryant. But the though of a top four in the order of Acuna, Albies, Freeman and Bryant is an intriguing one.
The other name that’s started circulating of late is Nolan Arenado, whom the Rockies just signed to an eight year deal in 2019. I, for one, find it hard to believe Colorado would part ways with Arenado so quickly after inking that eight year, $260 million dollar deal. In addition, his contract includes an opt out after 2021. So again, parting ways with a number of top prospects wouldn’t make much sense at this point.
In the end, Donaldson is the one who makes the most sense for the Braves in 2020 and beyond. He brought an intensity to the ballpark everyday that was contagious for everyone in the clubhouse. He liked it here, became a fan favorite, and his umbrella celebrations in the dugout really seemed to bring the team together. I’ll predict Donaldson returns to Atlanta on a four year deal in the $110-$120 million dollar range.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet