MLB Free Agents: Top 5 available players and best fits

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 04: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after an RBI single off Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning in game two of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 04, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 04: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after an RBI single off Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning in game two of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 04, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Top 5 MLB Free Agents: Josh Donaldson, 3B

34-years-old — 3 years, $71 million

And then there was one. Donaldson currently stands alone as the last remaining Big Four MLB free agents from this year’s class as well as the highest-ranked unsigned free agent left on FanGraphs’ Top-50 list, as he looks to get properly rewarded for his big 2019 season.

As you may already know, Donaldson was an AL MVP in 2015 with the Toronto Blue Jays, back when he was a lock for 30-35 home runs and 100 RBI.

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He’s not that 29-year-old version of himself anymore, though 2019 was only the second time he played a full season of baseball since that MVP season. This past year with the Braves, Donaldson took it upon himself to remind everyone that he’s not quite done yet.

Braves’ GM Alex Anthopoulos took a chance with his former player (from his days as Blue Jays GM) and handed a one-year, $23 million pillow contract to Donaldson. The logic was sound: if Donaldson even halfway resembles his late-20s self it’s a win and if he doesn’t, it’s still a win, as he only costs the Braves one season and money.

As we witnessed, the low-risk move by Anthopolous was a success. Donaldson became a fan favorite as he hit .259 and belted 37 home runs (his most homers since 2016) on his way to a 4.9-WAR season, second only to Ronald Acuna Jr. in the lineup.

And it wasn’t just offense, either. Donaldson played strong defense at the hot corner, tallying 15 DRS (defensive-runs-saved), which stands as his best DRS since his last season with the Athletics back in 2014.

Add it all up and at 34-years-old Donaldson is a hot commodity on the free-agent market, standing as the second most valuable position-player available this offseason, behind only Anthony Rendon (who signed with the Rangers last week).

And don’t look now, but coming as a bit of a surprise — considering concerns regarding his age — Steamer projects Donaldson to basically match his totals from this past season in 2020:

147 G, .257 AVG, 35 HR, 89 RBI, 4.7 WAR

The fact that Donaldson’s 2020 season looks so valuable is interesting, considering the current hold-up for teams — especially for the Braves — is whether or not it’s a good idea to give Donaldson a four-year deal. As we’ve seen in the past, handing out 3-4 year deals to players in their 30s usually doesn’t end well; but with Donaldson now 100% healthy, perhaps it’s wrong to bet against him.

It seems reasonable to expect his power to mostly remain, and even if Donaldson were to lose a bit of his thump in the next three or four years, is 20-25 home runs that much worse than 35? And in terms of defense at third, there are absolutely no signs currently suggesting that a dropoff is imminent.

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It will be interesting to see how Donaldson’s free-agent story ends this winter. There are numerous teams that remain in need of a third baseman, and with the position so top-heavy it appears that it’s Donaldson or nothing for much of the field.

Best fits: Braves, Nationals, Rangers, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Phillies