MINNEAPOLIS – Third baseman Josh Donaldson has agreed to a four-year deal with the Minnesota Twins, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
It will pay him $84 million over the first four years and includes a $16 million club option with an $8 million buyout. In total, the deal includes $92 million in guaranteed money, with a chance to increase to $104 million in value if Donaldson hits escalators on the option.
Donaldson, 34, is a three-time All-Star and the 2015 American League MVP. He rebounded from two straight injury-riddled seasons to hit .259 with 37 homers and 94 RBIs in 155 games for the Atlanta Braves last season.
He was a National League Gold Glove Award finalist at third base and fit into a powerful middle-of-the-lineup trio with Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. that combined for 116 home runs and helped propel the Braves to their second straight National League East title.
Donaldson, who grew up in Alabama as a Braves fan, earned $23 million on a one-year contract last season that gave him a chance to show he was healthy and back to near-MVP form, setting him up for a much more lucrative payday in the current free-agent market.
The slugging third baseman won his MVP award in 2015 after hitting 41 homers and leading the majors with 122 runs and topping the AL with 123 RBIs in his first year with the Toronto Blue Jays after arriving from the Oakland Athletics in a blockbuster 2014 trade. He hit .297 with 41 doubles to help the Blue Jays reach the playoffs for the first time since they won consecutive World Series in 1992 and ’93.
Although Donaldson followed that with two more seasons of 30-plus home runs, a hip injury in 2016 and a strained right calf in 2017 cut into his production. During the 2018 season, Donaldson was limited to 52 games due to shoulder inflammation and more calf issues, and he batted .246 with eight homers and 23 RBIs. He was dealt to the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 31 and played 16 games, enough to persuade the Braves that he was fully recovered from his health issues.
Donaldson spent the first four years of his career with the Athletics and is a career .273 hitter.
After striking out on the top-tier starting pitchers on the market, settling for bargain-rate deals with Homer Bailey and Rich Hill, the AL Central champion Twins decided instead to double down on their offense.
The Twins set a major league record with 307 home runs last season on the way to the division title and were second in baseball with 939 runs behind the New York Yankees, who swept them in the AL Division Series.
Donaldson will give the Twins a sixth 30-home run hitter from last season, and a second player, with designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who has topped the 40-homer mark at some point in his career. Cruz went deep 41 times last season, his fourth such time reaching that milestone.
The Twins made a big impression on Donaldson in their pitch meeting, sources told Passan, and Donaldson’s connection with manager Rocco Baldelli was immediate and strong.
The acquisition of Donaldson will allow the Twins to move third baseman Miguel Sano across the diamond to the opposite corner. Sano has a powerful arm and is agile for his size, but the 26-year-old slugger, who’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds, ought to be better suited for the long term at first base.
Sano was at Target Field on Tuesday to finalize a three-year, $30 million contract and told reporters he was more than willing to switch spots, noting he has worked out at both positions during the offseason. The Twins created a vacancy at first base by not tendering a contract to C.J. Cron, who hit 25 homers in 125 games in 2019 but was hampered by a thumb injury that required offseason surgery. Cron signed with division-rival Detroit.
MLB Network first reported Donaldson’s agreement with Minnesota.