Surprising move: Yankees cut ties with Josh Donaldson ahead of deadline, Aaron Boone reacts

New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson left Wednesday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies with a hamstring injury.
Amanda Paula
Tuesday August 29, 2023

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In a stunning turn of events, the New York Yankees have made the unexpected decision to release veteran player Josh Donaldson from their roster during the 2023 season, even as the team navigates a challenging period. During the weekly interview to Talkin’ Yanks, the manager Aaron Boone explained why the Yankees made this hard move.

“Potentially, it gets him an opportunity to catch up somewhere. He wasn’t going to be able to come off the IL for another couple of weeks. With our situation and the task of bringing up some of the kids and stuff, there wasn’t going to be much playing time. So, we felt the timing was right to go ahead and make that decision.” Boone said.

What happened to Josh Donaldson?

Initially, the release might not raise eyebrows, given that Donaldson had been dealing with a $6 million buyout for the upcoming 2024 season. The Yankees were evidently willing to pay this sum to facilitate Donaldson’s departure from their ranks. Placed on the 60-Day Injured List on July 21, Donaldson’s earliest potential return date was pegged at September 14. Recent indications hinted at his possible comeback, as Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone discussed a potential rehabilitation assignment over the past weekend in Tampa. Moreover, Donaldson participated in batting practice alongside the team on several occasions throughout August.

The release of Josh Donaldson by Yankees

However, a sudden shift occurred between the weekend and Tuesday afternoon, prompting the Yankees to not only bring Donaldson back into focus but also to subsequently expel him from their active roster.

This decision is particularly noteworthy given that Donaldson had already been sidelined from the major league roster. If the Yankees had no intention of retaining his services in the late stages of the season, they could have quietly manufactured a scenario involving setbacks, allowing them to decline his contract terms during the offseason without unnecessary attention. The decision to publicly release him on August 29 raises questions. What prompted this sudden move? What actions or factors contributed to Donaldson’s departure?

Josh Donaldson - the New York Yankees player.

Speculations surrounding this surprising decision point toward a financial perspective. New York released Donaldson a mere two days before the deadline that would have allowed him to join another team, be eligible for their postseason roster, and save the Yankees approximately $228,000.13 – the prorated league minimum for September’s gameplay. This fiscal incentive could potentially be a driving factor behind the unexpected release. However, this perspective may not encapsulate the entire situation.

Josh Donaldson is no stranger to dramatic turns of events. He previously stirred controversy in 2022 by inciting a clash with Tim Anderson of the White Sox. In 2021, he labeled Gerrit Cole a cheater, only to later become Cole’s teammate a few months down the line. His acquisition by the Yankees was intended to inject a certain level of “edge” into the team’s dynamic. Regrettably, his performance fell short, and he spent much of his time with the team exchanging verbal jabs with the Rays while struggling to make a significant impact on the field.

In retrospect, Donaldson’s two unsuccessful years in a Yankees uniform amounted to a staggering $56 million, making it one of Brian Cashman‘s most questionable transactions. This trade, seemingly driven by advanced metrics to bolster an aging batting lineup, was also linked to a desire to secure value in exchange for Gary Sánchez.

The decision to part ways with Donaldson on Tuesday carries financial implications, tidying up the Yankees’ financial records. Interestingly, the team had recently designated Greg Allen for assignment, which opened up a slot in the 40-man roster, seemingly unnecessary for accommodating September call-ups like Austin Wells. This move raises the possibility that Donaldson’s departure might have been influenced by his interactions with the team, perhaps culminating in an instance where he sought to provoke public censure in New York. Furthermore, his release removes any ambiguity about the Yankees’ future plans for him in 2024, considering the inevitability of his buyout payment.

With the abrupt departure of Josh Donaldson, the “Donaldson Era” concluded in New York. Yet, the lingering impact of this decision is likely to outlast memories of previous contractual missteps by the Yankees.

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