Last offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies signed away Bryce Harper from the division-rival Washington Nationals. They’re apparently interested in signing a Phillies killer away from another National League East foe this winter.
After an injury-riddled 2018 season that he split with the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians, Donaldson signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Braves for $23 million. Well, he proved it, slashing .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs, 94 RBIs, 100 walks and a 4.9 fWAR.
In 18 games against the Phillies, Donaldson homered six times and drove in 16 runs in 2019. Signing him would not only upgrade the Phillies third base position, but keep them from having to face him 18 times a year.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said in early October that the Braves would like to re-sign Donaldson, who will turn 34 in December. Donaldson could theoretically become a fall-back option for the Nationals, should they lose their star third baseman, Anthony Rendon, in free agency. MLB Trade Rumors projects that the aforementioned Rangers will ultimately land Donaldson on a three-year/$75 million deal.
Phillies Nation‘s Jonny Heller projected this week that if the Phillies hope to stay under the luxury tax in 2020, they have about $42 million to spend. Spending $25 million of that one player would certainly cut into the Phillies ability to address their most pressing need: pitching, both starting and relieving. Of course, the Phillies could back-load the deal knowing that Jake Arrieta and David Robertson will come off the books after 2020. You don’t want to make it a habit of back-loading contracts, but the Phillies will need to be aggressive this offseason to catch up to the Nationals, Braves and New York Mets in the National League East.
It’s unclear what signing Donaldson for three years would mean for Alec Bohm, the organization’s top overall position prospect, who is a third baseman. While there is some thought he may not ultimately stick at third base, he figures to reach the major league level in 2020 and it would seemingly make sense to give him the opportunity to fail at that spot before moving him elsewhere.
If the Phillies signed Donaldson – and there’s no DH in the National League at this time – first base would seemingly become the logical landing spot for Bohm, both in the short and long-term. But Rhys Hoskins is currently entrenched there. Hoskins did hit just .180 after the 2019 All-Star Break, but he hit 34 home runs in 2018. Hoskins is valued in the Phillies organization for his leadership, and new Phillies manager Joe Girardi cited Hoskins’ ability to play every day in his introductory press conference.
In the event the Phillies signed Donaldson, they could seek to move Hoskins, though they would seem to be selling low on the 26-year-old. Certainly, though, it’s hard to argue that the 2020 Phillies wouldn’t be a better team if they signed Donaldson, the 2015 American League MVP.
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