This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.
The White Sox third baseman of the future is?
That's a question without an answer at the moment, with the long-term prognosis for the hot corner a mystery in the wake of a pair of Achilles tears suffered by 2017 first-round pick Jake Burger earlier this year. There were already questions floating around, though not necessarily inside the White Sox organization, about whether the heavy-hitting Burger could play third base on a regular basis. Now, thanks to those injuries, those questions have been amplified.
Yolmer Sanchez is coming off a disappointing season offensively and doesn't appear to be a long-term solution. Yoan Moncada might move over there this spring considering that middle infielder Nick Madrigal (this year's first-round choice) could be quickly making his way toward the majors. Past that, though, there's not a surefire third-base prospect like there are at many other positions throughout the White Sox farm system.
And so attention has naturally turned to external solutions. Colorado Rockies MVP candidate Nolan Arenado is a free agent next winter, and plenty of fans have their sights on adding him as the finishing piece this rebuilding effort needs to vault the White Sox into the realm of perennial contenders. But this winter has its own multi-time All-Star third baseman in Josh Donaldson. Any takers?
The focus has been on the South Siders' reported interest in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the two biggest fish in this free-agency pond, but don't forget Donaldson is just three years removed from an MVP campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays, when he slashed .297/.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 123 RBIs. Donaldson's got four top-eight MVP finishes to his name, including the win in 2015. Harper and Machado have three top-eight MVP finishes combined, including Harper's win in 2015.
In an insanely productive four-year stretch from 2013 to 2016, Donaldson slashed .284/.375/.518 with 131 homers and 413 RBIs.
But it's the last two seasons, heretofore unmentioned, that have made Donaldson less attractive than the Harpers, Machados and Arenados of the world. He played in only 113 games in 2017, still smacking 33 home runs and driving in 78 runs in that injury-shortened season. Then last season, he played in only 52 games, getting dealt from Toronto to the Cleveland Indians late in the summer. Though 52 games is hardly enough to judge a season on — let alone a player's future performance — his numbers plummeted, his slash line dipping to .246/.352/.449 and his home-run total to just eight.
Whether or not teams believe Donaldson's best days are behind him thanks to a pair of injury-riddled seasons remains to be seen. But one inarguable fact is his age. He'll be 33 on Opening Day 2019. Does that line up with the White Sox long-term plans? Not as well as the 27-year-old Arenado, of course. But Arenado's going to be a popular guy next winter, so would it be wise to put all the eggs in the Arenado basket?
Donaldson might not fit in the White Sox contention window, but he's got one heck of a track record and could bring some big-time production to whichever lineup he joins for 2019.