Thursday, January 16, 2020

Hello, Donaldson

Josh Donaldson isn't officially a Minnesota Twin yet, but nobody's denying that the deal's in place. A few thoughts, none particularly unique, about adding The Bringer of Rain to the Bomba Squad:

* He is an immediate and significant defensive upgrade at third base, which figures to help the pitching staff. The best gloveman on this team is still Byron Buxton in center; I think Donaldson is the next best defensive player. Maybe Max Kepler is a better right fielder than Donaldson is a third baseman, but I'm inclined to rate Donaldson higher.

*The gain at third may to be offset by a decline at first, which will now be occupied by Miguel Sano. There was a noticeable decline in defense at first base last year when C.J. Cron replaced the retired Joe Mauer; expect another falloff with Sano.

* No matter how one arranges the batting order, this is a scary lineup, with six men who hit at least 30 homers in 2019 (Donaldson, Sano, Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver), supplemented by the impressive bat-on-ball skills of Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco and the slash-and-dash of Buxton. In my view, the worst hitter of the default lineup is Rosario.

* The default lineup -- outfield of Buxton flanked by Rosario and Kepler; infield of Sano, Arraez, Donaldson and Polanco; Garver catching and Cruz at DH -- leaves no obvious place for Marwin Gonzalez. Rocco Baldelli is not a manager who wants a lineup of iron men, and he's going to make playing time for Gonzalez. But Gonzalez is a weaker hitter than any of the default nine, and other than at first base, he's not necessarily a defensive upgrade anywhere. (Maybe at second, but we didn't see much of Gonzalez in the middle infield in 2019.)

*Adding Donaldson makes fitting Willians Astudillo on the 26-man roster tougher. Figure 13 position players. with the nine default players. Gonzalez makes 10, second catcher Alex Avila 11, Ehrie Adrianza 12 ... 13 comes down to Astudillo or Jake Cave/LaMonte Wade Jr. I'd vote for Gonzalez as the primary fourth outfielder and keeping Astudillo over Cave or Wade, but the Twins may see it differently.

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