At first blush, the Atlanta Braves should be congratulated for reportedly landing Josh Donaldson on a so-called make-good contract of one season.
In his prime years with the Athletics and Blue Jays (2013-17), Donaldson enjoyed superb averages of 33 homers, 98 RBI, 98 runs and six steals, along with elite-level tallies with on-base percentage (.377), slugging (.524) and OPS rate (.901).
The principal reward for this excellent stretch: Donaldson finished in the top-4 voting for American League MVP three times, while capturing the coveted award with Toronto in 2015.
So, what's the problem here? If Donaldson hadn't been riddled by injuries heading into his proverbial 'walk' year (only eight homers/23 RBI for the Jays and Indians in 2018), surely, the Braves would not have corralled Donaldson as a one-year rental.
That said, there are three tangible concerns here ... if the reports of Donaldson getting paid $23 million have merit:
1) Since there's no designated hitter in the National League, is Donaldson expected to become the Braves' everyday third baseman?
And if so, how does the club justify moving Johan Camargo to another position, or perhaps benching the 24-year-old altogether?
(In his first full MLB campaign, Camargo belted 19 homers and posted four different months with an OBP rate above .340.)
**In case you're wondering, Part I ... charting his 883 combined games at the major-league level, Donaldson has never spent a full day in the outfield.
**In case you're wondering, Part II ... there aren't any records of Camargo garnering regular reps in the outfield (MLB or minors).
On the trade front, Camargo would make for an interesting bargaining chip for the upcoming Winter Meetings (Dec. 9-13 in Las Vegas), considering the franchise’s highest-ranked hitting prospect (Austin Riley–No. 5 with the club) also plays third base.
In that sense, maybe Donaldson would be a one-year bridge to Riley in 2020.
2) According to Spotrac.com, a Web site which continually MLB salaries, the Braves currently have a payroll of $58 million.
However, that doesn't factor in the 20-plus players in their pre-arbitration stages of contract negotiations.
So, thinking conservatively, let's add another $16 to $18 million to the pot for 2019.
By adding Donaldson for $23 million, and whatever Brian McCann's slated to receive in 2019, the Braves will soon be looking at a payroll north of $100 million.
On the surface, it's still a doable figure, considering how the Braves are loaded with 25-and-under talent with quality MLB experience.
However, it reflexively puts the proverbial kibosh on Bryce Harper or any other big-ticket free agents signing with the club at the Winter Meetings (or beyond).
3) Hypothetically, let's say the Braves aren't contenders for the wild card or NL East title this coming season; and yet, Donaldson looks sharp at the plate, while remaining injury-free for 140-plus games.
Would the playoff teams be willing to acquire Donaldson before the MLB trade deadline, paying nearly half the $23 million freight?
Especially if the Braves desire a good-to-great prospect in return.
That's a tough one to answer.
Bottom line: On paper, Atlanta's MLB roster became stronger on Monday.
It just falls flat on the feasibility scale, factoring in the necessary developments of Camargo/Riley at third base, Donaldson's age and wear-and-tear (turns 33 in December) and the Braves' lack of a DH fallback 154 times next season (eight games in American League cities).