Josh Donaldson was fielding inquiries from several teams at the outset of free agency when he received one in particular he found intriguing.
“I think it was probably about a week or two (into the process), I called my agent Dan (Lozano),” Donaldson said. “I said, ‘Hey, man, I want you to call the Twins and let them know I want to be there. I think it’s a real opportunity for us.’ There’s a lot of things for me why it drew me here. … I was just hoping that they felt the same way and obviously that’s where we’re at today and it’s pretty special for all of us.”
The Twins felt the same way but had to wait for Donaldson to make a decision as the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers also reportedly bid for his services. Ultimately, it was the Twins’ four-year, $92 million offer that the 34-year-old third baseman accepted. The contract, the most lucrative any of the teams offered Donaldson and the richest deal the Twins have ever given a free agent from outside the organization, includes a fifth-year club option that will be worth $16 million or enable the team to pay an $8 million buyout.
Donaldson was introduced Wednesday during a press conference at Target Field, one week after the news broke that he had decided to sign in Minnesota after spending his nine-year career in Oakland, Toronto, Cleveland and Atlanta. After an injury-plagued 2018 season limited him to 52 games with Toronto and Cleveland, Donaldson signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the Braves last year hoping to prove himself worthy of a much richer, multiyear deal.
He won NL Comeback Player of the Year honors, hitting .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs and 94 RBIs in 155 games for the NL East champions. Donaldson brings his 219 career home runs to a team that set the big-league single-season home run record last season with 307. Donaldson, who was the AL MVP in 2015 with the Blue Jays, does more than add power. He also brings a far better glove at third base than Miguel Sano provided. Sano, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Twins this month, will move to first base to make room for Donaldson.
“I think the division sets up well,” Donaldson said, “being back in the American League fits well, personal success in this stadium has definitely been something that I was looking forward to possibly being here one day.”
Donaldson wasn’t kidding about his success at Target Field. In 22 career games in the stadium, Donaldson has hit .373 (31-for-83) with seven doubles, 10 home runs, 21 RBIs, an .819 slugging percentage and a 1.283 OPS. Among all active players with a minimum of 75 plate appearances, his OPS ranks first and his batting average ranks third. Donaldson hit .444/.643/.556 in nine at-bats in a three-game interleague series at the ballpark last August.
You can insert your own joke about how much of this success came against bad Twins pitching through the years, but Donaldson feels there is a reason for his success at the ballpark.
“If you’ve ever played golf, and I’m an avoid golfer in the offseason, I think there are certain golf holes that set up to your eye,” he said. “For some season, this stadium sits up well for me. Maybe it’s the background, or whatever it’s been, I’ve taken a liking to it. I’ve had some great experiences here and I’m looking forward to putting up more numbers here.”