Yankees: $50 million trade bust is likely done in New York

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees, josh donaldson
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Wishing the best for Yankees‘ veteran infielder Josh Donaldson’s future and with no intention to cheer for injuries, it seems one of the biggest trade busts in recent history, masterminded by General Manager Brian Cashman, might have seen his final days in the Yankee pinstripes.

Donaldson’s 2023 season is likely cut short due to a calf muscle tear. Despite subpar performances over the past two years, the Yankees persisted in offering Donaldson additional chances, potentially to justify the $50 million owed to him in the final two years of his contract.

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Donaldson’s Performance: A Downward Trajectory

To be fair, Donaldson registered a batting average of .247 with a .352 OBP, along with 26 home runs and 72 RBIs in the 2021 season with the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees’ acquisition of Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez initially appeared to be a favorable exchange. However, IKF has been inconsistent, performing decently at times but generally proving to be a below-average offensive player and inconsistent defender.

While Gary Sanchez has become a journeyman, Urshela performed commendably with Minnesota in 2022. In 144 games, he achieved a batting average of .285 with a .338 OBP, in addition to 13 home runs, 64 RBIs, and a 119 wRC+.

The Yankees might have preferred to retain Urshela, a robust defender and above-average hitter last season.

Donaldson’s Tenure with the Yankees: An Overview

Donaldson concluded his stint with the Yankees, hitting .142 with a .225 OBP. His performance dipped from the previous season, where he hit .222 with a .308 OBP, marking the first time since 2012 he posted a wRC+ below 126. At 36, it seems the Yankees procured Donaldson at an inopportune time as he seemed to be battling age-related challenges.

Donaldson was placed on the 60-day injured list this Thursday, which essentially implies he’ll be out of action for the next two months and potentially marking the end of his season and perhaps even his career.

Looking Ahead: Yankees and Donaldson’s Legacy

Donaldson, who has earned substantial wealth throughout his career, is certainly primed for retirement. The Yankees, however, face a talent vacuum at third base. The team seems keen on testing Oswald Peraza unless he is traded at the deadline.

Peraza, a 23-year-old, currently has a batting average of .190 with a .358 OBP this season. However, given his limited experience of just 16 games, these statistics are expected to have significant fluctuations.

With the Yankees struggling to maintain their playoff contention, they may explore the trade market to bolster their offense. However, their optimal strategy may involve planning for 2024 and acquiring young, controllable players who can contribute in the future.

The story of the Yankees has lately been about aging contracts and underperforming veterans. Donaldson’s injury could force them to rely more on their younger players instead of persisting with high-priced underperforming veterans out of a sense of pride.