It’s been another forgettable season for the former All-Star third baseman. Donaldson missed two months with a hamstring injury and while he has six home runs in 21 games, he’s batting .125 with 20 strikeouts.
Everything came to a head over the weekend. Donaldson basically didn’t play against the Rangers. What’s more, manager Aaron Boone was late to Sunday’s pregame media. Why? Because he was in a meeting with Donaldson.
Neither man tipped their hand as to what was discussed, except Boone mentioned Donaldson would be playing “a lot” during the upcoming slate of games. You’d have to dig pretty deep into the statistical rabbit hole to justify why, as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch demonstrated:
Our stats department looked into Boone's invitation to "scratch the underlying numbers" on Donaldson:
"It's a small sample size, but he has seven barrels in 35 batted balls since his return. That 20% barrel rate is quite good — only four qualified hitters have a barrel rate…
— Bryan Hoch ⚾️ (@BryanHoch) June 25, 2023
In case this sounds familiar, it’s because the Yankees did this exact same thing last year. They put Joey Gallo in the lineup night after night, hoping that the homers would eventually outpace the strikeouts. It never happened. Gallo was traded to the Dodgers.
The Yankees are headed down that same road again, just with Donaldson. In fact, that’s probably what he discussed with Boone. He isn’t a good fit in New York but needs to play to attract trade interest. Would the Yankees have been able to trade Gallo and his .159 batting average if they simply didn’t play him?
We should also note that Clayton Beeter, the arm the Yankees received in the Gallo trade, has starred in the minors this year. He has a 2.32 ERA in 13 starts and is a strikeout machine. Cue a reminder that general manager Brian Cashman, though frustrating, is good at his job.
Thus, don’t expect Donaldson to get the Aaron Hicks treatment. Those six home runs have enough staying power to stave off a simple pink slip. It’s more likely that Donaldson gets a chance in the upcoming Oakland and St. Louis series. There’s every chance he can get back on track against two of baseball’s worst pitching staffs.
One way or another, much like Gallo was this time last year, Donaldson is not long for pinstripes. The only difference between the two is it was easy to feel bad for Gallo. The boos and underperforming clearly weighed on him.
Donaldson, by comparison, never holds himself accountable. Even yesterday, he brushed off his meeting with Boone and only spoke of wanting to play. In an even sharper contrast, Donaldson’s fellow struggling teammate, DJ LeMahieu, at least understands there’s a hole in his swing.
It would take Donaldson returning to full 2015 MVP form at age 37 to stay a Yankee all year. That just isn’t happening. It’s more likely he does start lifting baseballs more, but just into flyouts instead of grounders. Cashman won’t keep him around for the occasional tape-measure blast.
Donaldson became a Yankee under the best of intentions, it didn’t work out, and that’s fine. As I’ve mentioned before, neither New York nor the Twins won that trade. The best thing for both parties is to just get through the next month as painlessly as possible and hope a trade happens sooner.
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