Should the Yankees get rid of Josh Donaldson?

Chicago White Sox's Tim Anderson pushes Josh Donaldson to oust from in Chicago, Friday, May 13, 2022.

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According to Mike Rosenstein of NJ Advance Media, the Yankees are looking to trade Josh Donaldson. The three-time All-Star had the worst offensive season of his career in his first year with the Yankees. His on-base percentage, wRC+, and walk rate were all at their lowest levels since 2012 when he played 75 games as a rookie.

Josh Donaldson has now played in 1,333 games in the major leagues. He still played great defense at third base, but his bat made many fans pull out their hair and wonder if any other team would be fooled into trading for him.

The other bold-faced bullet point under Josh Donaldson’s name is the $25 million he’s owed next season. This is right next to his “Jackie” incident with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson when neither his teammates nor his manager backed him. The Yankees agreed to take on that salary so they could get rid of Gary Sanchez and get Isiah Kiner-Falefa. This trade made less and less sense with each strikeout by Josh Donaldson and a defensive mistake by IKF. Now, they are facing the very likely possibility that Donaldson is done and very few people who care about the team want him to stay.

When you look at the numbers for Josh Donaldson’s season, a few amazing things stand out. FanGraphs says that the sneering third baseman chased balls that were outside of the strike zone more often than he ever had before. He hit 32.7% of the outside pitches he saw, which is a big jump from his career average of 26.7%. This makes sense since his walks have also dropped sharply and his strikeouts have gone up. From 2013 to 2021, when Mike Trout was the only player with more Wins Above Replacement, Josh Donaldson walked at least 10% of the time. It finally fell below that mark in 2022, when it settled at 9.9%, while his strikeout rate rose to a career-high of 27.1%.

A few days ago, Yankees reporter Bryan Hoch cited Brian Cashman to tell that Josh Donaldson will “definitely” play third base for the team in 2023.

“Josh Donaldson will ‘definitely’ be the Yankees’ third baseman in 2023, according to General Manager Brian Cashman,” says Bryan Hoch.

But many New York fans may be disappointed by this since Josh Donaldson didn’t do much on offense last year. Still, he had some of the best power to the opposite field of any right-handed hitter in the game when he was at his best. In 2015, when he was the MVP, 23.6% of the balls he hit went the other way. In 2019, when he had a big year in Atlanta and was at the end of his career, that number went up to 24.7%. In his first year in the Bronx, however, Josh Donaldson only hit the ball to the opposite field 17% of the time.


The results of that were kind of obvious. Even though he played half of his games in Yankee Stadium, where it’s hard to believe he only hit three home runs to the right or right-center field, Josh Donaldson still managed to have his first slugging percentage below .400 in ten years. Josh Donaldson’s power numbers went down because he didn’t take advantage of the short porch. Only 6.5% of his home fly balls went over the wall, which is hard to do at Yankee Stadium.

In all major league parks in 2022, the average ratio of home runs to fly balls was 11.4%. Josh Donaldson’s at-bats in a park known for a lot of home runs were still well below the league average. Aaron Hicks had a worse offensive year than Donaldson by most measures, but he still had an easier time getting his fly balls out of Yankee Stadium. Hicks’s home ratio of 6.8% home runs to fly balls was just a little bit better than Donaldson’s. Even Josh Donaldson didn’t have a hard time getting the ball in the air. His career rate of fly balls, 38.7%, was the same as this year’s, but they just didn’t go as far as they used to.

This is worrying for a number of reasons, and it makes me wonder if the natural effects of getting older have just taken away a lot of his skills. When Josh Donaldson joined the Yankees, his crazy exit speeds from 2021 were part of what made him so interesting. In that season with the Twins, his average exit speed was in the 99th percentile of all major league hitters. Only Aaron Judge, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Giancarlo Stanton hit the ball harder than Donaldson.

In 2022, Josh Donaldson’s average exit speed was still good (the 81st percentile), but he wasn’t nearly as consistent with it. Using Statcast’s measurements, his 52.7% hard-hit rate from 2021 put him in the 95th percentile of the league. This is the percentage of batted balls that left the batter’s hand at 95 mph or faster. The 43.2% from 2022, on the other hand, put it in the 68th percentile. Losing bat speed is often one of the first signs that a batter is tired. A lot of pop comes from bat speed, and several of Josh Donaldson’s stats show that he’s lost a lot of that pop. This is bad news for his already low popularity among Yankee fans.

When you add all of that to the weird, annoying things he does and the fact that he went 5-for-29 in the postseason, Josh Donaldson doesn’t have a lot going for him as he enters his 37th season.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal claims, “Their preference almost certainly is to move Donaldson, who is owed $21 million this season and a $6 million buyout on his $16 million mutual option for 2024.”

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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