With Adrian Beltre’s retirement a year behind them, the Rangers’ 2019 third base situation was enough to make them like the crying boyfriend constantly checking the rearview mirror as they drive away to make sure their love wasn’t chasing after them to tell them “Never mind! I still want to be with you!”
Beltre’s retirement was not temporary and the Rangers had six different players trot out to the hot corner in 2019 — now World Series Champion Asdrubal Cabrera was the leader for Texas with 93 appearances at third base.
Texas took a third baseman with their first round draft pick in 2019, Josh Jung out of Texas Tech, but that will not stop them from weighing their third baseman options this winter. Some of the biggest names at that position have been linked to the Rangers in some shape or form since the end of the season. Guys like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rendon and now Josh Donaldson each have come up as options for the Rangers to pursue this winter via trade or free agency.
While each would be great gets for the team at their varying price levels, the no-doubt best choice, for a variety of reasons, is Josh Donaldson.
The 2015 American League MVP is coming off a very strong 2019 season with the Atlanta Braves where he hit .259 with an impressive 37 home runs and a .900 OPS. If you were to plug in Donaldson’s 2019 numbers into the Rangers lineup, they would lead in the following categories:
Home runs (Donaldson 37 vs Rougned Odor 30)
RBI (Donaldson 94 vs Odor 90)
Walks (Donaldson 100 vs Shin-Soo Choo 78)
Doubles (Donaldson 33 vs Choo 31)
Donaldson would be a great number three hitter in a Rangers lineup with the slugging Joey Gallo and potentially Nomar Mazara or Danny Santana following them. The threat of power and on-base potential is something the Rangers haven’t had in the three hole spot since Adrian Beltre was fully healthy and chugging along several gears ago. No more days of trying to make guys like Elvis Andrus or Nomar Mazara hit in a spot in the lineup they don’t deserve to be in under ideal circumstances.
While guys like Rendon (age 29) and Bryant (age 28 on Opening Day 2020) would certainly be great additions to the lineup too, their price, whether in free agency of via trade, is definitely going to be higher than what a 34 year old Donaldson will be able to command on the ever stingy MLB open market.
A deal for Rendon certainly starts at 5 or 6 years and comfortably over $200 million. Several top prospects in a farm system that Texas has worked hard to rejuvenate would be the floor for any Bryant trade. I would think Donaldson could be had for as “little” as $25 million per year if he secures a three year deal this winter. Players his age have had a hard time in free agency the last several years with teams opting to just trying to develop younger hitters instead of shelling out major money to hitters possibly over the hill of their career. After an injury plagued 2018, Donaldson’s 2019 season should restore faith that he is still a very formidable presence in the game and will be for at least a few more seasons. Plus, with the aforementioned Jung and 20 year old infielder Sherten Apostel possibly just a year or two away from being ready for the majors, a smaller year commitment to Donaldson makes more sense than a five or six year deal for Rendon.
The price difference between Rendon and Donaldson, paired with the Rangers possibly getting off some of the $20 million owed to Shin-Soo Choo in a trade, could free up enough money for the team to also add one of the high caliber starting pitchers on the market NOT named Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg.
But what about his past against the Rangers with the Toronto Blue Jays???
Three words for you: Get. Over. It.
If either team was still right in the thick of a championship race, maybe it’d matter. They’re not. So much has changed since then.
Jose Bautista is out of baseball. Jeff Banister and Keone Kela are in Pittsburgh. Adrian Beltre has retired. Rougned Odor’s punch has turned into the highlight of his career, sadly. Donaldson has played for two other teams (Cleveland and Atlanta) since his time in Toronto. It’s ancient history.
Donaldson’s edge could definitely be used on the hitting side of the Rangers clubhouse. Guys like Choo and Andrus are passive leaders at best. While that’s not a bad thing, a vocal veteran leader to hold the younger guys accountable with a young manager in Chris Woodward would be a good thing as this team looks to form an identity during their quest to return to contention.
While it seems almost certain that the Rangers will make some sort of splash this winter ahead of their move into Globe Life Field next spring, my endorsement is definitely for the edgy Donaldson to man the hot corner in 2020.
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