Posted on November 26, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Atlanta Braves had a busy day Monday, signing two veterans they hope can help them take another step forward in 2019. The Braves have reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with third baseman Josh Donaldson worth $23 million. They have also signed longtime Atlanta catcher Brian McCann, who signed a one-year, $2 million contract.
Donaldson, of course, is the bigger signing. The soon-to-be 34-year old is coming off a down season that was plagued by injuries. Between the Blue Jays and Indians, he hit .246 with an OPS of .801 in less than 200 at-bats. Giving a player that kind of money coming off such an injury-riddled season is no doubt risky. However, the Braves limit some of the risk by keeping it at one year. The Braves also know that Donaldson is not too far removed from being an MVP-caliber player.
Third base was a troubled spot for Atlanta last season. Johan Camargo saw most of the time at the hot corner, starting 105 games. He also had a strong offensive campaign, hitting .272 with 19 home runs. But he may be better served as a utility player. Donaldson, on the other hand, remains a threat to hit 30-plus home runs and 80 to 100 RBIs.
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The Braves are hopeful that Donaldson can add some punch to the middle of their lineup. Atlanta has plenty of young rising stars like Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. at the top of the order. But Donaldson gives them a constant power threat later in the order. He will also help provide some protection for star first baseman Freddie Freeman.
Meanwhile, the signing of McCann means a homecoming for the veteran catcher. The 34-year old broke into the big leagues with the Braves in 2005. He stayed in Atlanta through the 2013 season. He has since spent three years with the Yankees and two with the Astros. But he says he’s always wanted to return to Atlanta to finish his career.
“To be honest, this is a day I didn’t know would happen when I left in 2013,” McCann said Monday. “But this is as special of a day for me as any I’ve had in my career.”
Of course, how much McCann has left in the tank remains to be seen. A knee injury this past season limited him to just 62 games. However, he was able to come back in September and be a productive player for Houston down the stretch.
The good news for the Braves is that they don’t need McCann to be their primary catcher. Atlanta already has a veteran catcher on the roster in Tyler Flowers. Despite having a down season offensively, Flowers split time last year with Kurt Suzuki. With Suzuki signing with the Nationals earlier this month, McCann should step in and split time with Flowers.
Obviously, both Donaldson and McCann are past the prime of their careers. But with the Braves having such a young team, they could be the perfect complements to Atlanta’s youth movement. Both are being counted on for offensive production. However, Donaldson and McCann will both provide a little more veteran leadership, something the Braves could need if they’re going to win the NL East again in 2019.