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  • E.J. Fagan

Just Release Josh Donaldson

by EJ Fagan

March 13, 2023


NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.

Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.


Way back on February 21st, here was one of the first things we heard about the Yankees infield competition:

Boone’s framing is technically correct. There is some probability that Josh Donaldson will be better than his 1.6 fWAR last season. However, he’s more likely to be as bad or worse in 2023 than he was in 2022, because he will be 37 years old. Here is the average aging curve for MLB hitting:

Donaldson is riding the steepest parts of the aging curve. Some players defy the trend, but most start to see their offensive abilities evaporate in their late-30s. Given that Donaldson is coming the worst offensive season of his career, it’s probably safe to bet on his decline accelerating rather than a return to form.

But Donaldson isn’t worthless:

He’s still an elite defender. When he makes contact, he hits the ball pretty hard. He can take a walk. If the Yankees didn’t have any better options, they could do worse than Josh Donaldson.

The Yankees Are Better Without Josh Donaldson

You know the Spring Training story. The Yankees have too many infielders. They are going to have to demote, trade or cut two players before the season starts. The Oswaldos and especially Volpe are looking like major league players in Spring Training.

I think Donaldson is an easy cut. The two best Yankee veterans are DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres. If Donaldson is in the lineup, the other two can’t be. Unlike Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, he has no real utility off the bench. He’s a poor hitter, slow and can only play one position. Even without thinking about the potential of the young players, playing Donaldson makes the Yankees worse.

And then there’s the problem of the young players. Even if Peraza is the starting shortstop, Volpe needs a spot to play. With Donaldson, the Yankees are two injuries away from Volpe starting most days. Without him, a LeMahieu or Torres injury means that it’s Volpe time. Plus, Oswaldo Cabrera probably needs some time in the infield.

Donaldson Doesn’t Make the Yankee Infield Much Deeper

Maybe even if Donaldson makes the Yankees worse, he’s worth keeping around for depth. Volpe can be optioned down. Cabrera can sit on the bench and play a little outfield. Injuries happen. The Yankees might regret letting him go when the injured list starts to get crowded.

Here’s the thing though: the Yankees have an embarrassment of riches all over the infield. They have three players who have played third, four who have played shortstop and six (!) who have played second. If they are dipping into the Wilmer Difo pool this season, something has gone very wrong.

I think as Yankee fans we’ve all been a little traumatized by the injuries of 2018-2020. The Yankees had to dip far into their reserves every season. That was abnormal. Everyone in the Yankee infield except for LeMahieu has a strong record of staying healthy. The Yankees don’t need to be exceptionally cautious about depth just because it happened in the past.

No One Is Going to Take Donaldson’s Salary

Donaldson is owed $21.75 million in 2023, plus and $8 million buyout in 2024. I’m sure the Yankees tried pretty hard this offseason to offload some portion of that salary, but he’s still here. If he were less of a pain in the ass in the clubhouse or a little better on the field, maybe some fringe contender would take a few million dollars of his salary.

I think it’s about time to close the book on the Donaldson trade possibility. We haven’t heard any rumors that the Yankees are even discussing a trade with anyone. No obvious contending teams need a third baseman. No up-and-coming team wants him in their clubhouse. I’m not convinced that he could secure a major league job even if he were paid the minimum. Maybe some team thinks he is worth a few million dollars, but that’s not much different for the Yankees than releasing him.

Just Release Him

I get it. Flushing $30 million dollars down the drain feels wasteful. The Donaldson/IKF trade is going to go down as a rare Cashman flop. But that money is a sunk cost. They are going to pay it regardless of whether or not he is on the roster. If the Yankees are better off without Donaldson and no one is going to take him off their hands, they might as well rip off the Band-Aid and release him.


Mar 13, 2023

Off topic - Joe Pepitone has passed away,

Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Mar 14, 2023
Replying to

His autobiography was pretty stunning. He really faced up to his bad choices and misdeeds, and was very candid about the family dynamic growing up that shaped him. I hope he found some catharsis and peace from all that self-reflection and confessional writing.


Mar 13, 2023

Off topic - just watching the WBC game between DR and NCA (Nicaragua). Some 21 yr old kid from NCA just K'd Juan Soto, Julio Rodriguez and Rafael Devers in one inning. Maybe Johnny Lasagna can recruit him for the Yankees' depleted pen.

Mar 13, 2023
Replying to

😫 Well we don't know the story so I won't rip the Yankees but he does look good. Doesn't throw hard from what I saw. Mostly change ups, sinkers and sliders.


Mar 13, 2023

Boy oh Boy do I miss Gio!!


Mar 13, 2023

OK Donaldson has defensive metrics on his side on defense but that doesn't mean others cannot play the position either at a acceptable level. Cashman doesn't have the balls to pickup the phone and call Hal and inform him he is releasing both Donaldson and Hicks! 😀

Mar 13, 2023
Replying to

LeMahieu is on hand and can play 3B pretty will AND will provide far more offense than Donaldson. if DJ is healthy, he should start

BUT should DJ play third every day?

my opinion, and I'm a grumpy old man, is that the priority is in identifying a left fielder

and that if the team starts out by simply dumping Hicks and Donaldson

the team weakens its position...without gain.


Mar 13, 2023

there's small cost in having Donaldson on the bench at the start of the season, even if it means keeping a deserving kid down on the farm.

it's quite likely that Donaldson will offer little other than excellent defense at a single position,

but it's also likely that excellent defense won't harm the team, especially when the team is not short of good hitters.

as has been often noted, the team is more in need of a lefty-hitting outfielder than it needs all of the infielders that it has amassed

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