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Will Josh Donaldson be a Yankee in 2023?

By Chris O’Connor

December 14, 2022


There is no question that Josh Donaldson struggled offensively in his first year with the Yankees. While the now 37 year-old Donaldson stayed healthy enough to play in 132 games, he posted concerning, large declines in both traditional offensive numbers and advanced statistics.

Donaldson slashed just .202/.308/.374 with 15 home runs and a 97 WRC+, had his lowest hard-hit rate (43.4%) of the Statcast era (since 2015), and went for full-season career-worsts in both strikeout rate (27.1%) and walk rate (9.9%).

On the other hand, his defense was a pleasant surprise: he ranked fourth among qualified third baseman in DRS and fifth in both UZR/150 and OAA.

Still, a 37 year-old with his offensive decline and who accounts for $25 million in luxury tax salary in 2023 (with an $8 million buyout in 2024) is going to be nearly impossible to trade. The only way they could move him is if they attach prospects to entice someone to take his salary, which can’t be ruled out. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Yankees release him due to his high salary and adequate overall performance (1.6 fWAR).

So, how will Josh Donaldson fit into the Yankees plans in 2023?

Donaldson’s offensive decline, combined with the presence of Giancarlo Stanton on the roster, makes primary DH duty unlikely; if anything, his value moving forward will likely come from strong defense at third. The Yankees, however, have a number of other options available to play third base. IKF was pretty clearly overstretched as a shortstop, but he routinely posted excellent defensive metrics at third during his time with the Rangers. Oswaldo Cabrera is a valuable utility piece and can play a competent third. Both are valuable due to their ability to play multiple positions.

The way I see it, Donaldson’s presence on the 2023 Yankees comes down to two things: the trade value of Gleyber Torres and the health status of D.J. LeMahieu. If D.J.’s toe injury continues to linger, that is one less infielder with the ability to play second and third base. In that scenario, assuming one of Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe take the shortstop job, the Yankees can stick Gleyber at second and have a IKF/Donaldson combo at third. If the Yankees really like an offer for Gleyber Torres and move him, that would signal their confidence in D.J. 's health and move him back to second base.

Either way, it appears that the Yankees have a surplus of quality, if not star-level, infielders.

Having a lot of decent players is not a bad thing, but as any fan of the New York Knicks would tell you, it’s not the most inspiring thing. The offseason is far from over, and the Yankees bringing back Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo is a nice start. But the Yankees have a lot more to figure out if they want to get back to the World Series.

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