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Yankees release Josh Donaldson after two disastrous seasons

Roughly six months after Aaron Boone said it would be “crazy” to think that Josh Donaldson wasn’t capable of a bounce-back season, the Yankees have released the 37-year-old third baseman.

Donaldson, eligible for a $6 million buyout this offseason, has been on the injured list since July 20 after suffering a high-grade calf strain. He would not have been able to come off of the IL until mid-September. But with the Yankees focused on younger players and Donaldson a surefire goner this winter, it would have made zero sense to activate him next month.

Boone recently said that Donaldson was nearing a rehab assignment and that he planned on staying in Tampa following the Yankees’ recent series against the Rays. The veteran has made himself incredibly visible in recent weeks, running, fielding and taking batting practice in front of reporters. The day of the trade deadline, Aug. 1, Donaldson warmly greeted a few writers on the field before running toward the outfield, as if to indicate that he was ahead of schedule just weeks after a serious injury.

Donaldson has dealt with multiple injuries since the Yankees acquired him from the Twins alongside Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt in March 2022. The Yankees sent Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela to Minnesota in that ill-fated trade.

When healthy, Donaldson played a stellar third base for the Yankees, but the former MVP gave them little offense. While he managed to hit 10 home runs in 33 games this year, he only had five other hits.

Donaldson’s Yankees career ends with a slash line of .207/.293/.385, 25 homers, 77 RBI and a 91 OPS+ over 165 games.

With numbers like that, Donaldson will go down as one of the worst trade acquisitions of Brian Cashman’s career. And that’s before considering Donaldson’s $21.75 million salary each of the last two seasons or the clubhouse distraction that he caused last May when he called White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who is Black, “Jackie.”

Anderson’s peers immediately noted that the comment, a reference to Jackie Robinson, was racist, and members of the Yankees, including Aaron Judge, said Donaldson was in the wrong. Donaldson received a one-game suspension and a fine from Major League Baseball. He landed on the COVID-19 injured list the same day, which kept him away from the Yankees longer than his suspension would have.

Donaldson appealed the ban and lost, though his fine was reduced.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan recently told The Michael Kay Show that the Yankees knew Donaldson didn’t get along with teammates in Minnesota and that “there was some toxicity going on there.”

A 13-year veteran who quickly became unpopular among Yankees fans, Donaldson has played for six different teams. A .262/.359/.491 career hitter with 276 homers and 805 RBI, he said he hoped to give himself an opportunity to play in 2024 when he first sustained his calf injury.

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