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Dodgers Rumors: LA 'Still In' on Josh Donaldson, Fear Nationals Will 'Go Big'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2019

Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) runs the bases after hitting a homer during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Atlanta, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly still in the running for free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Fox Sports, the Dodgers are concerned the Washington Nationals will price them out of the market, however, by offering Donaldson a four-year deal or a three-year contract with a high annual salary.

On the heels of Anthony Rendon signing with the Los Angeles Angels, the Nats have a massive need at the hot corner.

The 34-year-old Donaldson is coming off a huge bounce-back year with the Atlanta Braves. After injuries limited him to just 52 games with the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians in 2018, Donaldson signed a one-year deal with the Braves and slashed .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs and 94 RBI.

ESPN @espn

Josh Donaldson with a LOUD home run to left 🔊🆙 https://t.co/i4XPQDNmuy

That represented his best production since a three-year stretch in Toronto from 2014-2016 that saw him earn three All-Star nods. Included in that run was a 2015 season in which he hit .297 with 41 homers and 123 RBI en route to being named the American League MVP.

Donaldson played a huge role in the Braves winning the National League East last season, and with Rendon no longer on the market, he is clearly the top hitter available in free agency.

If the Dodgers sign Donaldson, it will force them to reshuffle their infield since Justin Turner is currently their starting third baseman. Donaldson is the superior defensive player, so he would likely man third with Turner going across the diamond to first and Max Muncy moving to second.

Adding Donaldson to a lineup that already includes Turner, Muncy, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger would likely make L.A. the odds-on favorite to reach the World Series for the third time in four years.

While the Dodgers could win the NL even without Donaldson, the Nationals may need the power-hitting third baseman to have a chance at a repeat.

Rendon was the offensive anchor for Washington throughout the 2019 regular season and during its playoff run, which concluded in the first championship in franchise history. Without Rendon, there is little protection for outfielder Juan Soto in the middle of the lineup.

First basemen Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams and second basemen Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera are also unsigned free agents who played a major role for Washington last season.

Signing Donaldson would give the Nationals a much-needed cleanup hitter and cornerstone at third base, and it would allow them to play postseason hero Howie Kendrick at first base on a fairly regular basis.

Given the fact that Donaldson couldn't land anything more than a one-year contract last offseason, it is remarkable that this offseason he could shift the balance of power in the National League based on whether he joins the Dodgers or Nationals or perhaps even returns to the Braves.