Josh Donaldson signed with the Atlanta Braves on Monday for one year and $23 million. It was later reported by Bob Nightengale that the Cardinals did, in fact, make a competitive offer to the star third baseman. However, they came in second place yet again.
Missing on Donaldson could mean a few different things for the Cards. Some good, some not so good, but the missed opportunity definitely sheds a little light on the Redbirds offseason approach.
They Aren’t Willing to Overspend
If not paying more than $23 million for one season of an injury-prone 33-year-old corner infielder says anything, it’s this: John Mozeliak and his team still aren’t going to get out of their comfort zone financially.
This doesn’t mean they won’t cut a large check this winter. However, it does mean they still aren’t going to take any big risks. As good as JD’s resume was, he was still a risk to get injured again or have a down season. That isn’t the type of player Mo has spent on in the past and he’s not starting now.
They Might Have to Trade for Their Corner Infielder
Donaldson seemed to be the Cardinals’ plan A to solve their third base issues. Obviously, with him off the board, they will have to go a different direction. Manny Machado is still available, but there has been much talk associating him with the Cards. This leaves them to the trade market.
The biggest name being thrown around right now is Paul Goldschmidt. Clearly he’s no third baseman, but Carpenter could slide back across the diamond, opening up first for Goldy. This would solve the production issues at third base and the middle of the lineup.
Bryce Harper Isn’t out of the Question
It was unlikely that the Redbirds would sign two large contracts this offseason. Had they brought in Donaldson for the $23 million the Braves gave him, that may have been their only move. Unfortunately, or fortunately, they didn’t land him, which leaves their financial situation completely intact.
Money still on the table means they are still in the hunt for Bryce Harper. Harper is going to bring a haul, after already turning down 10 years and $300 million from Washington. That means, had Donaldson come to St. Louis, there wouldn’t have been any money left to go after Harper.
Don’t let Mo not spending on Donaldson fool you into thinking he won’t spend on Harper either. Donaldson would’ve been a really nice piece for a couple of seasons. He’s not the 26 year old, franchise-transforming player that is Bryce Harper, though. Harper is a guy who Mozeliak would have confidence in enough to give out a mega deal and still be comfortable, and as long as he’s comfortable, everything is fine.
Donaldson Wasn’t That Important Too Them
Although $23 million for one year is a lot of money, it has the potential to look like a steal for the Braves. Donaldson is a former MVP with 40 homer power and an elite-level glove at third. If he has a monster year like he’s capable of in 2019, $23 million won’t seem like a dime to Atlanta.
Should he have that kind of year, it wouldn’t have seemed like a dime to the Cardinals either. With all that potential, and with all the talk about the Cards going out and getting him, it seemed like Donaldson was almost a sure thing in St. Louis. They could’ve afforded to give him a couple million more than the Braves, but they decided he wasn’t worth the extra cash.
That could be because the Birds didn’t have as much interest in JD as everyone thought. Sure, they were rumored to be in trade talks with Toronto about him for the last two seasons, but nothing ever got done. Now they’ve had the chance to bring him in for nothing more than money, which they have plenty of, and they still couldn’t pull the trigger. Undoubtably there was some intrigue with Donaldson, but it probably wasn’t as big of a thing as the fans and media made it out to be.
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