Photo Credit: CBS Sports
Rain is coming to the Land of 10,000 Lakes in the middle of January. This rain is coming in the form of former MVP and 3-time All-Star 3rd baseman, the bringer of rain, Josh Donaldson. For an organization that is not generally known for paying up in the offseason, the Minnesota Twins handed out their biggest free agent contract in franchise history in terms of AAV, moving them into 5th in the MLB this winter in money spent in free agency. This is also the second largest contract signed by a free agent age 33 or older in MLB history.
For a team that just shattered the single season home run record and slugged .494, an offensive upgrade was seemingly impossible. But that is just what happened. In his age 33 season, Josh hit 37 HR, 33 2B, and 94 RBI. He posted a .900 OPS and walked 100 times, good for 7th in the MLB. Among hitters with a minimum of 50 AB’s in 2019, Donaldson ranked 6th in average exit velocity. With Miguel Sano ranking 3rd and Nelson Cruz 4th in this category, this gives the Twins 3 of last year’s top 6 hitters in average exit velocity, a good reason for extended netting. Below are Donaldson’s league ranks, according to Baseball Savant, in these hitting categories.
credit: Baseball Savant
Donaldson’s arrival will move Miguel Sano to 1st base. This is possibly the biggest part of the signing. Among players to log 750 innings at 3rd base last year, Miguel Sano ranked dead last in the MLB in OOZ, a stat that measures the amount of plays fielders make that are “out of their zone.” Donaldson, the “slugger”, was tied for 1st. The Minnesota Twins left side of the infield was the worst in the MLB in UZR (ultimate zone rating) in 2019. Miguel Sano had a -6.7 UZR, where Josh Donaldson had a 2.4 UZR. Miguel Sano’s OAA, outs above average, a statistic new to infielders, was -3 at 3B in 2019. Donaldson’s was a +8, 3rd among all 3rd basemen in the league, trailing only Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman, possibly the two best fielding 3rd basemen of our generation. Finally, Josh Donaldson’s 15 DRS (defensive runs saved) this year from the hot corner landed him 2nd in the league among all 3rd basemen, actually above Nolan Arenado. Miguel Sano’s -5 DRS had him ranked 20th out of the 27 3rd basemen with 750+ innings.
Yes, Josh Donaldson gets paid tens of millions of dollars to mash baseballs, but he has done it better in Target Field than any other major league park. Actually, in stadiums that Donaldson has played 10 games or more in, Donaldson has the highest OPS, AB/HR, and batting average (1.283, 8.3, .373) in Target field, a park more commonly known as a pitcher’s park. Donaldson has hit more home runs (19) against the Twins than he has against any other team. His .199 tOPS+ and .852 SLG are higher against the Twins than against any other team.
Since 2013, Josh Donaldson ranks 2nd in the MLB in fWAR, behind only the best player of the decade. In 2015, he won MVP, leading the league in RBI with 123, runs with 122, and total bases with 352, all while posting a .297/371/.568 slash line. He also hit 41 HR and 41 2B. Completely absurd. He followed that up with a .404 OBP season and 122 more runs scored, his then 3rd straight All-Star campaign. Donaldson joins a Twins lineup that will feature Byron Buxton as possibly the weakest point. This is deadly not only to the rest of the AL Central but the entire MLB. So it’s time to buy those baby blue jerseys, because rain is in the forecast for years to come.