Could Yankees veteran infielder turn back the All-Star clock?

josh donaldson, yankees
Jun 2, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson (28) celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees, along with their manager Aaron Boone, have been anticipating the comeback of Josh Donaldson, despite his lowest statistical performance in 2022.

The 37-year-old posted a dismal .222 batting average with a .308 on-base percentage, and for the first time since 2012, he recorded a sub-100 wRC+.

In truth, it appeared as though Donaldson’s prime playing years had concluded, and his decline was manifestly setting in. Despite this significant decline in performance, Boone held steadfast in his belief in Donaldson, who succumbed to a hamstring injury after merely five games.

The veteran third baseman endured a protracted recovery, spurring conjecture that the Yankees might keep him off the team to facilitate the advancement and potential transitioning of prospects into starting roles. However, Boone remained committed to Donaldson at third base, awaiting his full-time return.

Fortuitously for the Yankees’ manager, Donaldson exhibited a spectacular performance in his first game back from rehab. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night, he hit two home runs, contributed three RBIs, and struck out once. He increased his slugging percentage to .650, albeit over a limited sample size.

“Felt nice to have some pretty quality ABs today,” Donaldson said after the 8-4 loss. “Obviously, it’s been frustrating not being able to play, but I can’t really do too much about that anymore. Hopefully I’ll put my best foot forward moving forward.”

The Yankees recognize Donaldson’s superior defensive skills, a factor that justified his position in 2022. Over 902.2 innings the previous season, he achieved a .961 fielding percentage, saving seven defensive runs and recording seven outs above average.

Given his $25 million salary for the current season, he must provide at least one favorable performance aspect. Boone, at a minimum, can trust in Donaldson’s competent defensive contribution in the infield, but his offensive abilities have been inconsistent.

Several voices suggested promoting Oswald Peraza to take the third base position, potentially transitioning to full-time alongside Anthony Volpe at shortstop.

Since Gleyber Torres, one of the team’s best hitters, has secured his position for the moment, Peraza seems the most logical choice for an everyday starter.

Currently performing in Triple-A, he’s earned a .337 batting average with a .389 on-base percentage, hitting 10 home runs, contributing 20 RBIs, and securing a 156 wRC+. The eventual reality might be that Peraza serves merely as a trading option, but it remains to be seen what the Yankees’ long-term plan will be after Donaldson’s contract expires.

Is it possible for the Yankees to rediscover the old Josh Donaldson?

Should Donaldson manage to rejuvenate his career in his twilight years, the Yankees might profit from the deal that sent Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez to Minnesota.

Having been selected for three All-Star games in his career, there’s no doubt that Donaldson was once an exceptional hitter, ranking among the top five in MVP voting three times.

At the age of 37, his golden days are undoubtedly past, but the Yankees might still be able to extract value from the remaining years of his prime.

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