St. Louis Cardinals Rumors: Not sold on Josh Donaldson for the long haul
Besides the marquee names of this free agency period, Josh Donaldson is probably the most talked about free agent name for the St. Louis Cardinals to pursue. However, I for one am not sold on the idea of the Cardinals going after Donaldson.
To clarify, I don’t want to see the St. Louis Cardinals sign Josh Donaldson to a multi-year deal. I would totally fine to see him come to the team for a single season, and possibly work a longer term deal out if the chemistry works out.
But why would I not want what many see as a perfect way to fill both the third baseman need and bring power to the lineup, something that the St. Louis Cardinals have been desperate for. However, I am just not sure that the Josh Donaldson the Cardinals would be paying for would be closer to the All-Star Josh Donaldson then the crippled Josh Donaldson that we have seen over the past couple of seasons.
Now I get that he’s been injured, and that Blue Jays management supposedly forced Donaldson back from injury early. Even if that’s true, it doesn’t mean that Donaldson will magically become his hard-hitting, healthy self after this offseason. In fact, I am not quite convinced that him playing through injury didn’t have a negative effect on his career longevity.
He’s turning 33 next month, which is right around when one’s prime is generally considered ending or over. People will point to his pseudo-resurrection after getting traded to the Indians, but he only had 60 plate appearances. In no baseball circle is 60 plate appearances an acceptable sample size, so I take his performance in Cleveland with a grain of salt.
You would hope that if Donaldson’s injuries were simply due to playing through injury in 2016, he would be healthy with another offseason of rest. Instead, these injuries became more and more frequent in 2018, which shows playing through the injuries may have had some adverse, long-term consequences. For the St. Louis Cardinals, taking the risk that Donaldson will not only be healthy, but will also produce at an elite level is simply too much at this critical juncture.
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The St. Louis Cardinals have missed on so many players that are in a similar part of their careers as Donaldson, and many of them did not turn out the way the Cardinals have wanted it to. From Brett Cecil to Greg Holland to Dexter Fowler, paying for past performance without considering other factors hasn’t worked for the team in recent years, so the Cardinals should be wary with Donaldson.
Another major point is that Donaldson is just three seasons removed from an AL MVP campaign, making him significantly more accomplished than any of the players that I just mentioned. However, he is also much less healthy than them as well, making me worried about taking another long term risk on Josh Donaldson. I would be fine with giving him a one year deal, but it’s hard to feel safe with any more.
Finally, an aspect that isn’t talked about enough is Donaldson’s defense, and the connection it has to his health. He posted a 1.5 dWAR in his MVP season, but his dWARs since have been significantly worse. It was 0.4 in 2016, 0.5 in 2017, and he fininshed with a 0 dWAR in 2018.
That’s really not a good sign, and a lot of signs pertaining to Donaldson seemingly point down. The St. Louis Cardinals were not the cleanest defensive team as it is in 2018, so they can’t afford any more defensive ineptitude without monumental offensive contribution. With Donaldson as he is now, I am just not convinced that they are going to get it from him.
There is no doubt that a Josh Donaldson that is healthy and returned to pre-injury form would bring this monumental boost to the offense. Donaldson seems to fit the perfect mold for the St. Louis Cardinals as a hard hitting third baseman, but I just don’t think he will ever return to the Josh Donaldson that we saw win MVP.