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Braves sign Josh Donaldson to a one-year $23 million deal

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Ken Rosenthal reports that the Braves have signed third baseman Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million deal. That, combined with the Braves bringing Brian McCann home, makes for a pretty big day for Atlanta.

It makes some a good degree of sense for Donaldson to do a one-year deal. He was poised to sign a mega-deal this winter before injury cost him two-thirds of the 2018 season. As such, signing for one season, returning to previous MVP form and then cashing in next winter makes some degree of sense. Especially when it makes him one of the higher paid players in the game, at least for 2019. Note: that $23 million salary matches what he earned last season in his final year of arbitration, which at the time was a record for an arbitration-eligible player.

There’s some risk here for Donaldson, of course. If he doesn’t return to form he’s got his $23 million — this is not some super risky make-good kind of deal — but he would have another year on him and two years of injured and/or subpar play, which could hurt his market next year. He obviously believes in himself, however, and clearly the Braves do too.

He’ll no doubt be the Braves’ starting third baseman in 2019, which creates a bit of an infield logjam in Atlanta. Johan Camargo had an excellent year at the hot corner in 2018, hitting .272/.349/.457. He can play shortstop and second base too, though, which could mean that he becomes something of a super-utility guy, spelling Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies at second, in addition to backing up Donaldson. That may take some plate appearances away from him and/or Swanson, but it gives the Braves some excellent depth.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.

As for the Indians, the commitment to Kluber for 2020-21 is $31.5 million if you exercise next year’s option, $18.5 million if you don’t. He’s one year and a freak injury removed from goin 20-7 with a 2.89 (150 ERA+), 0.991 WHIP, and 215 innings pitched. Cleveland is coming off 93 wins and should contend. Why you trade Kluber in that situation, regardless of the return, is a question they should have to answer to fans who expect to see winning baseball.