Aside from a few vulnerable positions, the New York Yankees have one big question heading into the 2023 season regarding third base. Currently, Josh Donaldson is the projected starter at the hot corner, coming off a stellar defensive season marred by offensive inconsistencies. At 37 years old, the Yankees would prefer to move on from his bloated salary.
In 2022, Donaldson hit .222 with a 30.8% on-base rate, 15 homers, and 62 RBIs. For the first time since 2012, Donaldson recorded a sub-10 % walk rate, recording a career-high 27.1% strikeout rate and a 97 wRC+, his lowest since his rookie campaign.
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The Yankees can’t put their faith in Josh Donaldson:
The veteran infielder struggled across the board in the batter’s box but posted a 4.5 defensive WAR. He logged a .961 fielding percentage over 902.2 innings, tallying 12 errors with seven defensive 7.0 saved above average and 7.0 outs above average. In fact, it is almost ludicrous he didn’t win a Gold Glove, but at $21 million, his lackluster offensive production justifies being moved.
Donaldson is set to earn $21 million for the 2023 season, with a $6 million buyout in 2024. Ultimately, general manager Brian Cashman would prefer to retain that salary space and allocate it toward more productive players, but it would open up a question at third base, which could be filled by DJ LeMahieu or Oswaldo Cabrera in the interim.
Nonetheless, trusting him to rejuvenate his bat might be a risky play, especially since he’s projected to hit .227 with a 32% on-base rate and 15 homers next season (Steamer projections), which wouldn’t be much better than has 2022 metrics.
If Cashman can find a buyer for Donaldson, at the very least consuming a bit of his salary to offload him, it would be worthwhile.
After all, Isiah Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove at third base several years ago and recently signed a one-year, $6 million deal. It is not as if the Yankees don’t have options to replace Donaldson but rather will struggle to offload his salary given the baggage he contains, including outlandish behavior and diminishing results.