A year removed from signing Josh Donaldson to a 1-year, $23 million deal, the same fans who criticized it then are now begging for him back. There is mutual interest between the Braves and Donaldson. However, money talks, and there are multiple teams interested in Donaldson’s services, including a couple of division rivals. There is a strong possibility that an organization like the happy-spending Phillies outbid the Braves for his services. So if that happens… then what?
Well, the Braves could opt to completely neglect the situation. They still have Johan Camargo, but Atlanta felt he was better suited for a utility role, and he never really got things going in 2019 until late in the season before fracturing his shin. He is far from a sure thing at this point. The same could be said of Austin Riley. He looks like an excellent piece for the future, but after the way he finished the season, it is impossible to trust him out there on Opening Day if the team is looking to compete for a championship. Riley might also be better suited to platoon in the outfield with Nick Markakis.
Donaldson was superb for the Braves. Not only was he responsible for 38 homers and a .900 OPS, but he also provided invaluable protection for Freddie Freeman, who went on to have a career year. If Atlanta loses out on Donaldson, they will have to replace him with another powerful threat that can hit behind Freeman in the cleanup spot. There aren’t any better options available at third base unless they land Rendon (not happening), but there is a cost-efficient alternative that may be able to replicate Donaldson’s success, or at least come close to it.
Mike Moustakas received no love in free agency last season once again. Though the Braves have had reported interest in him in the past, it took Moustakas until February to settle for a one-year, $10 million deal – less than half of what Donaldson was signed for. This was the second year of him settling for a one year deal, and he responded by putting together an All-Star season, slugging 35 homers with a .845 OPS.
Moustakas is not Donaldson. But he can play the hot corner and offer Freddie Freeman similar protection in the lineup for likely half the cost, which we know is appealing to Liberty Media. Another positive is he is much less of an injury risk. Moustakas has played in at least 135 games in every year since 2012 except for one (2016). He is more than a serviceable fallback option, or a cost-efficient move so the Braves can address other needs. Moustakas will likely be on Anthopoulos’ radar this offseason.