At the start of the new year, the third base market is heating up. Perhaps the biggest domino has already fallen, with Anthony Rendon landing with the Los Angeles Angels. However, there are at least three more superstar third basemen that are likely available.

Josh Donaldson seems to have started a bidding war between the Nationals, Braves, Twins, and Rangers, with possibly a few “mystery teams” also looking to add the star free agent. Donaldson was regarded as one of the best position players in all of baseball when he won the 2015 AL MVP award with his 8.7 fWAR campaign. 

Injuries at times capped his production in the years that followed, but he restored his value with a tremendous 2019 season with the Braves, in which he recorded 37 homers and a .900 OPS. A return to Atlanta would certainly make sense, as Donaldson thrived in a loaded lineup that also features Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr., and Ozzie Albies

The Twins can build their case for Donaldson around a roster that looks to be just a player or two away from becoming a true contender. A premium third basemen would further elevate an offense that in 2019 blasted the most home runs ever by a single team.

The reigning world champion Nationals are also an ideal fit for the “Bringer of Rain,” having just lost Anthony Rendon to the Angels. If they are not able to sign Donaldson, they could engage the Chicago Cubs in trade talks for… 

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Kris Bryant, who has been at the center of a swirling rumor mill for most of the offseason. Many believe that it would be counter-intuitive for a team that is still trying (and mostly failing) to contend for a World Series title to trade away their best player. Yet, it seems more possible than ever that a Bryant trade could actually happen before the 2020 season, as it has become publicly known that the Cubs wish to lower their payroll below the luxury tax threshold.

Bryant is one of the premier hitters in the game, yet he seems to be underrated by the common baseball fan. In 2018, he recorded an .834 OPS in what was his worst season, and it would have been higher had he not struggled with injuries throughout much of the year. Many in Chicago fail to realize that he is the franchise’s best position player since the great Ryne Sandberg, and instead focus on claims that Bryant is not clutch, which is altogether untrue

In addition to the Nationals, the Dodgers have also been linked to Bryant. They have also been connected to…

Nolan Arenado, but the Rockies would likely be reluctant to trade him within their own division. Arenado is a true superstar, having posted at least 4.5 fWAR in each of the last five seasons.

Colorado is in a strange state, hovering somewhere in between contention and the bottom of the standings. Mediocrity is a dangerous standard to accept, as to neither be good nor bad is to be going nowhere fast. However, if the Rockies are to commit to a full-blown rebuild, the return from a trade of Arenado would not necessarily jumpstart their farm system. 

While he is unquestionably a franchise-altering talent, Arenado’s contract has over $260 million remaining over the course of the next seven seasons. This type of megadeal would be unattractive for teams that can only support a smaller payroll, so it limits the trade market for Arenado. The Rockies would not get much in return, because the theoretical team that trades for Arenado would do so with the understanding that the Rockies side of the trade would be to gain salary relief.

Overall, the third base market at present is a fascinating one. How it all plays out will certainly have a meaningful impact on the 2020 season and beyond.

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