St. Louis Cardinals: Josh Donaldson reportedly pursued by Cardinals
With the waiver trade deadline quickly approaching, reports are surfacing that a Josh Donaldson trade is imminent, and the St. Louis Cardinals are one of his suitors. While having Donaldson sounds nice on paper, there is much to think about when talking about acquiring him.
There is obviously a reason to want Josh Donaldson on your team. He has demonstrated a balance of power and hitting ability in the middle of the lineup that you can argue the St. Louis Cardinals haven’t really had since Matt Holliday. The ability to hit .280 with 30+ home run power is certainly valuable, but there are plenty of other factors involved that make giving up significant pieces for Donaldson seem counterproductive.
The first issue is his health and production this season. Donaldson has only played 36 games this season, and didn’t seem like he had a lot of steam left in his swing. He managed to hit only .234 in those games, with a 47.9 percent ground ball percentage, and just five home runs in almost 200 plate appearances. However, he is just three years removed from an MVP season, and has had an OPS over .900 in the three seasons prior to this. It would all be about potential value.
The problem with that is, this isn’t the only time Donaldson has dealt with injuries. He only played 113 games last season, so there’s reason to believe that Donaldson is getting to the age where his body is starting to become more brittle.
That’s not to say he’s old, but he certainly isn’t a young spud either. He turns 33 in December, which is an age where a body breaking down is plausible. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say whether or not the past few seasons are an anomaly, but there is an argument considering his clean bill of health in seasons prior.
However, I am sure the trend is enough to keep some teams away from him, and it seems that there are more indicators that point to Donaldson dealing with more injuries than less in the future. On top of that, he only has one more year of team control, and is close enough to very successful years where he can make an argument to receive a contract close to a previous deal he signed in 2016 with an average salary of over $14 M over multiple seasons.
That figure should be way higher than the St. Louis Cardinals can be willing to pay. With the young talent oozing from this team, it should be clear that the window is big for this group. One argument is that winning a title will be much harder without Yadier Molina in the lineup and in the locker room everyday, so the Cardinals should try and win one while Yadi is still with us.
I respect this opinion, but with guys like Andrew Knizner waiting in the wings and Carson Kelly in perpetual limbo, so while losing Yadi will certainly be significant, this team will still be talented even after he is gone. On top of that, third baseman prospect Nolan Gorman has been making noise in the minors, and could be up and producing even before Molina retires.
Now, this is all talk under the assumption that there is a risk. A risk that comes in every trade is losing something valuable and receiving something less valuable. With the questions surrounding Donaldson and his health, it becomes an even greater risk. However, if what the St. Louis Cardinals give up doesn’t have value, then there’s no risk. If the Dodgers can get Brian Dozier for chump change, the Cardinals should only go for Donaldson for a prospect outside the top 30.
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The other issue is the aforementioned contract situation. If Donaldson isn’t willing to sign a short-term deal coming off of two previous ones, then the St. Louis Cardinals are suddenly in a lose-lose situation. If the Cardinals know they can keep Donaldson for a reasonable amount, say $6-7 M a year, then the risk might be low enough to consider pulling the trigger. But there’s no way to guarantee that.
If Donaldson was somewhat healthy or productive this season, this would be a completely different story. However, with the scenario that Donaldson might continue to perform at his 2018 level when he returns is still very much in the picture, giving up any kind of future assets for him when the team is so young just seems forced. Is it worth risking the growth and chemistry the team is going through by adding a potential injury and contract saga to the season.
With Donaldson’s potential elite production, perhaps there is. He posted a 4.5 oWAR last season, and the upside that is possible with Donaldson is arguably enough to turn this team into a potential World Series contender. Unfortunately, the chances that the St. Louis Cardinals would actually see the peak of this upside is a bit too slim for my liking.
The only way I personally would feel comfortable with doing it is if the St. Louis Cardinals really can somehow get Donaldson for a prospect with little value. There is simply too many unknowns with Donaldson, and too much going for this team to truly need to risk diminishing the team’s future value for at most 40 or so games of Josh Donaldson. That isn’t what this team needs.
What do you think about the Donaldson rumors? How much value should the Cardinals be willing to give up for Donaldson? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.