Ex-Yankees third base bust fueling Brewers playoff surge

josh donaldson, yankees
Aug 17, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees designated hitter Josh Donaldson (28) react after being hit in the arm by a pitch during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees, in a move that echoed their commitment to the future, decided to waive both Josh Donaldson and Harrison Bader. Prioritizing roster spots for budding talents, the Yankees sought to ensure that these young players had ample opportunities. Unfortunately, Donaldson and Bader did not fit into this futuristic vision.

Brian Cashman, the general manager, had a difficult pill to swallow. He had to release Donaldson despite having recently acquired him from the Minnesota Twins and assuming the hefty $50 million remaining on his two-year contract. The Yankees had envisaged Donaldson as their stalwart third baseman for the foreseeable future, especially given his commendable performance with Minnesota. But his declining numbers — a .222 batting average and a .308 OBP in 2022, with a wRC+ of just 98 — painted a different picture.

In the current season, Donaldson participated in only 34 games with the Yankees, plagued by a series of injuries. His stats further declined, posting a .142 batting average, a .225 OBP, 10 home runs, 15 RBIs, a 26.7% strikeout rate, and a wRC+ of 74. Recognizing his diminishing contributions, the Yankees opted to release him, paving the way for Oswald Peraza to make his mark at third base.

Donaldson’s Comeback with the Brewers

However, the narrative changed for Donaldson after joining the Milwaukee Brewers, a team leading their division and eyeing the playoffs. The Brewers, on the cusp of securing a playoff position, have been on a winning spree, taking five of their last seven games. Donaldson’s contributions have been evident, especially with his recent three-run homer that tipped a game in their favor.

With the Brewers, Donaldson’s stats reveal a promising turnaround: a .219 batting average, a .324 OBP, two home runs, seven RBIs, and a 113 wRC+ over just nine games. This wRC+ suggests a performance 13% better than an average hitter, a marked improvement from his Yankees days. Whether it’s the fresh environment or the thrill of aiding a playoff contender, Donaldson seems to be reinvigorated.

From Yankees to Impact Players Elsewhere

While the Yankees might rue the performance resurgence of their former players, it’s undeniable that both Donaldson and another ex-Yankee, Aaron Hicks, have flourished post their Yankee tenure. Hicks, who exited the Yankees with a mere .188 batting average and a .263 OBP, has been sensational for the Baltimore Orioles, boasting a .288 batting average, a .386 OBP, seven home runs, 29 RBIs, and an impressive 135 wRC+ over 57 games.

It’s ironic that these players, who were underwhelming in their pinstripes, are now pivotal contributors for other teams. This shift in form has drawn both astonishment and criticism from the Yankees’ fan base.

For loyal Yankees fans, these developments might be hard to digest. However, the decision to release these players, even with financial implications, was taken in the interest of granting opportunities to promising talents.

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