Atlanta Braves reportedly now offering four years for Josh Donaldson
Two former General Managers – Jim Bowden and Steve Phillips – are reporting this morning that a Donaldson signing delay is about a continued bidding escalation. The Atlanta Braves – for now – are still in the hunt.
In a bit of a shift from what we’ve heard previously on the subject, it’s not the ‘years’ that are separating the Atlanta Braves from a reunion with the hot corner slugger whose presence they enjoyed in 2019… it’s more about a fiercely competitive bidding market.
As with virtually every other free agent of significance who has already signed this Winter, we could see end up seeing Josh Donaldson get much more out of his next contract than anybody had anticipated.
The prior belief had been that the Braves were desperately clinging to an offer of a 3-year pact. That has been shattered in news from a former General Manager: Jim Bowden.
Bowden had a controversial career running the Reds and Nationals while as a GM, but he remains quite well connected in the industry and his information suggests that there may be an outright bidding war underway for the former MVP.
Bowden weighed in with multiple nuggets about Donaldson this morning during The Leadoff Show on MLB Network Radio (subscriber access only; transcripted from streaming services; no links available):
"“I have a source on the Donaldson side that has told me the Braves have gone to four years…. But my understand is that both the Nationals and the Braves along with the Twins have gone to four [years]”"
He suggested this was a single source, unconfirmed by the either teams or the player directly (you’ll never get that confirmation while negotiations are actively in play) but that he trusted the information enough to say ‘this is what I’m going with’.
He and former Mets GM Steve Phillips agreed that the final contract for Donaldson might not be stopping there, either, as the Twins are seriously in on the bidding up along with Washington and Atlanta. Bowden also guessed that other teams “are in this thing” (the Mets and Phillies were named in particular) and could at least be hanging around in the auction house as well.
Bowden also raised the specter that the ceiling for Donaldson’s services isn’t the $25 million annual rate that seems to have been assumed. He’s suggesting that something even higher is likely at this point.
"“I had originally thought 3 years and 75 [million]. I quickly pivoted and went 4 at $100 [million] and then I went to 4 at $112, and now I’m not sure it isn’t more than that.”"
$112 million for 4 years (that’s $28 million annually)? Or maybe $125 million ($25 million for five seasons)??
"“You’ve got to 4 years pretty quick… can you get to five? … Are you sure someone’s not going to go five years at 25 and get this done?”"
At this time, if all suitors are offering 4 years, Bowden is wondering – and Phillips agreed – if it wouldn’t take a fifth year (perhaps manifested as a 5th year vesting option) to be that ‘separator’ that makes one club’s offer stand alone from the rest.
That’s certainly been the pattern we’ve seen this offseason with everyone involved: overpaying for the best free agents.
That rightly brought up the subject of ‘Plan B’.