Chicago Cubs: Josh Donaldson to the Twins is best-case scenario

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

The past few days have provided a snapshot of why this current offseason might prove to be one of the most memorable in history.

On Monday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred levied sanctions against the Houston Astros with regard to the sign-stealing investigation from the 2017 season, a move that ultimately resulted in the firings of Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow.

Tuesday brought more drama. Within a matter of minutes, the Boston Red Sox parted ways with the manager Alex Cora and free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson signed with the Minnesota Twins.

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The former two events are sure to have longstanding ramifications for the sport as the Commissioner’s Office continues to grapple with the gray area that is the sign-stealing epidemic.

Meanwhile, Donaldson’s decision to sign with the Twins was the best-case scenario for the Chicago Cubs as they grapple with an unprecedented level of inactivity this winter.

The 34-year-old had a burgeoning market this winter, but it seemed as though he was losing suitors. Even the Twins were thought to be out on Donaldson just over a week ago, with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals seemingly the last teams standing.

Cubs’ position just got stronger

But Donaldson’s decision to head to the Twin Cities is likely music to Theo Epstein’s ears. Why, you might ask? Kris Bryant‘s trade value just rose considerably.

The Braves can cry foul over Bryant’s defense all they want, but it is foolish to suggest he would not be a sizable upgrade over their current options at third base.

Oh, you feel comfortable with Johan Camargo and his .279 OBP? Or Austin Riley and his 36.4 percent strikeout rate? Please. The Braves need an impact bat, and Bryant could provide legitimate protection for Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman.

Washington faces a similar problem. The defending champs made a series of depth moves–re-signing Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera while also adding Starlin Castro and Eric Thames–but they also need a legitimate run-producer to replace Anthony Rendon in the lineup.

The Cubs had previously engaged both teams with respect to Bryant earlier this winter, and with Donaldson off the market, they officially have options.

Epstein and Hoyer should not budge on Bryant’s trade value. There is no ignoring he has been the third-most valuable player in baseball since 2015, and he is one of the best players in the game when healthy.

Chicago’s front office could pit the two National League East foes against one another in trade talks. What about a package centered around Drew Waters and Max Fried (at the very least)? Or perhaps the Nats feel it is time to reassess their desire to keep Victor Robles?

Maybe neither team bites. In which case, the Cubs simply keep Bryant and hope the internal changes to the coaching staff are enough to add a few more wins in 2020.

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Regardless, Donaldson’s decision gives the Cubs a clearer market. The Braves have the best prospect capital, and the Nationals have arguably the most appealing trade chip. Now, both teams are likely to be in play.