The $21 million question is whether Josh Donaldson can keep his roster spot on the Yankees. The front office must decide as he returns.
3B Josh Donaldson is set to return from the Injured List in the near future. A divisive player with a large contract, the New York Yankees must decide whether he worth keeping around. Donaldson’s offense steeply declined last season, but the team is hoping he can stabilize the lineup and play steady defense.
How Did Josh Donaldson Become a New York Yankee?
On March 13, 2022, the New York Yankees traded for Donaldson alongside SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa and C Ben Rortvedt. In return, the Yankees sent C Gary Sanchez and 3B Gio Urshela to the Minnesota Twins.
Yes, the Yankees were able to get rid of Sanchez, who no longer had the solid bat like he did in 2016 and 2017. But also, it took trading a solid third baseman in Urshela and Donaldson’s large contract to make the deal happen. Even though both Sanchez and Urshela are not on the Twins anymore, it is safe to say it was a bad trade for the Yankees. With the Los Angeles Angels, Urshela is currently hitting .303 while mostly playing shortstop.
Kiner-Falefa has useful versatility, but he hits for very little power and produces well-below average offense. Rortvedt only made his team debut last week after a series of unfortunate injuries.
His Yankees Tenure
Despite being one of the best third baseman in the American League from a defensive standpoint, Donaldson’s bat was almost nonexistent. His struggles at the plate were so bad, he suffered boos from his home crowd.
His first season with the Yankees was lackluster to say the least, hitting just .222 with a mere 15 home runs and 62 RBIs in 132 games. He also struck out 148 times. In 29 postseason at-bats, he struck out 16 times, resulting in an ALCS sweep against the Houston Astros.
This season Donaldson has barely played as he has not appeared in a game since April 5. He is currently dealing with a strained hamstring. In just five games this season, he is hitting an abysmal .125 and has six strikeouts to just two hits, not that you can draw any conclusions from such a small sample.
Yankees Already Shed One Big Contract
Like Donaldson, one guy that has struggled mightily, especially for his contract, is OF Aaron Hicks. Hicks signed a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Yankees. He has dealt with tons of injuries and no longer has the power or speed he once did. The Yankees finally cut ties with him and designated him for assignment. Now the discussion has risen to an even higher level of whether Josh Donaldson should follow suit.
Should Donaldson be Designated for Assignment?
Back in October, when the Yankees were swept by the Astros, I called for Donaldson’s head due to his struggles in the playoffs. I felt Donaldson should have been released, traded, or whatever it took to get him out of New York and off the Yankees payroll.
However, the Yankees should not DFA Donaldson. The Yankees have a lot of injuries currently on their team, such as C Jose Trevino and OF Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees bench currently consists of UTIL Oswaldo Cabrera, Rortvedt, and Kiner-Falefa. That bench has no pop and limited experience, as Rortvedt has only played three games with the Yankees.
What is the Role for Donaldson Once He’s Back?
Manager Aaron Boone said Donaldson will most likely be an everyday starter at third base once he returns. However, that is an awful decision for many reasons as he should be moved to the bench. One of them being INF DJ LeMahieu is simply the better player as he gets on base way more often. The other reason is Donaldson needs to slowly get back into the groove of things as he has not played in a game since early April. He could be a solid bench spot with hopefully some power once he is healthy.
The Yankees need all the help they can get on both sides of the ball, and Josh Donaldson, for all his faults, would be an upgrade.
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