Yankees could lose polarizing infielder for the rest of 2023 with a calf strain

Another day, another serious injury for the New York Yankees. They’ve suffered a myriad of injuries throughout the season, most notably to their best player Aaron Judge, but now they’re dealing with an injury in their infield. Dealing with a second lower-body injury, they’ll likely hand over everyday reps to Oswald Peraza for an extended period of time at third base.

Against the Chicago Cubs prior to the All-Star Break, Josh Donaldson came up limp with what seemed to be a tweak to his calf. Staying in the game, it was brushed off as nothing major, although we saw him exit a game earlier in the year after pulling his hamstring, causing him to miss a month of the season. This time, the calf injury he suffered in Colorado seems to be the real deal. The Yankees immediately placed him on the IL and promoted top prospect Oswald Peraza to take over in the infield.

Today, we found out the reason for the urgency; Josh Donaldson has suffered a severe calf strain, with Randy Miller of NJ.com reporting that the 2015 AL MVP tore his right calf. While Bryan Hoch said there’s no timetable on the injury, Miller reports that he’s likely done for the season, and with his poor play and the uncertainty of the deadline, this could spell the end of Josh Donaldson’s tenure in the Bronx.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees, josh donaldson
Jul 7, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson (28) reacts after striking out during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What’s Next for Josh Donaldson and the Yankees?

Donaldson is turning 38 over the winter, and with his .293 OBP and 93 wRC+ as a Yankee, it seems that the story of the Bringer of Rain’s time in New York will end on a sour note. He had shown some flashes of power with a staggering 19.7% barrel rate and .349 xwOBA, but a poor average (.142) was too much to handle, and the .225 OBP dragged his wRC+ down to 75. He was exactly a replacement-level player according to FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement, and the former All-Star couldn’t get the ball rolling.

He did launch 10 HRs in 34 games, but nothing else was showing offensively for him to continue to get everyday at-bats. This injury only expedites the inevitable and unceremonious end to his tenure in New York, as it’s hard to imagine that the Yankees would attempt to bring him back in mid-September, as they look to go a younger direction with Oswald Peraza.

The Yankees are also most certainly not bringing back Josh Donaldson following the conclusion of the 2023 season, as not only is he wildly unpopular among fans, but he already publicly raised questions about playing in 2024. With a pretty strong career and plenty of accolades, this feels like the time for Josh Donaldson to question if he can do another 162 games of this.

He did play elite-level defense while in New York, and there were some memorable moments such as the walk-off grand slam against the Rays, but it all gets muddied by the inconsistent and disappointing play. The Yankees acquired Josh Donaldson for the 26 HRs and .373 OBP he had in 2021, and he immediately lost his step when he put on the pinstripes.

The average time for recovery on calf strains of his extend (Grade 2/3) would likely sideline him until the end of the regular season, and since the Minor League season ends earlier than the Major League one, his date “to return” would likely be too late for him to rehabilitate properly and see in-game pitches. If the Yankees haven’t either acquired a third baseman externally or figured it out with Oswald Peraza, then they likely aren’t making the playoffs anyway.

This is the type of injury that knocks you out for the season, and Josh Donaldson is the type of player you don’t really have the motivation to rush back. Brian Cashman and the Yankees didn’t envision the Josh Donaldson experience to end this quickly when they acquired him last March, and they certainly didn’t anticipate to get more value out of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but here we are. It’s a bad trade with a bad ending, and all you can hope is that they’re able to move forward and get production from Oswald Peraza or a deadline pick up to finally solve the hot corner.