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Missing on Josh Donaldson is a bad sign for the St. Louis Cardinals offseason plans

When it was announced that former American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson agreed to a $23-million, one-year contract, I was initially relieved to learn that it didn’t come from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Nothing against Donaldson, well, other than his age. The guy will turn 33 next month and has battled injuries for the past two seasons that have kept him off the field far too much to count on him to be the Cardinals’ savior. Besides, $23 million is too much to park on the disabled list. I’ve been on record as saying that I would have liked to see Donaldson added as a complimentary move to the team after adding a franchise type player. But not as a stand-alone signing.

The fact that the Redbirds didn’t make the easy move seemed to indicate the overly conservative front office had its sights set higher. But then a report came out Tuesday in which Bob Nightengale said that St. Louis did try to sign Donaldson — but he spurned the club’s “competitive offer” to sign with the Atlanta Braves instead.

Great. The Cardinals are back at coming up just shy of landing their targeted players.

Does this mean Donaldson was the big plan to overhaul the team and now nothing is going to happen? As appealing as it sounds to fans, it’s hard to believe the Birds were planning to spend $20 million on the slugging third baseman AND make a $35 million to $40 million a year commitment to Bryce Harper — especially when Dexter Fowler is soaking up $15 million a year worth of payroll. So is the team in or out when it comes to the mega stars available on the market?

Maybe the Cardinals were going to put all their eggs in the 2019 basket by picking up Donaldson on a one-year deal and trading for one year of Paul Goldschmidt. Don’t forget that Marcel Ozuna is in his last year of control. So, the middle of the order the Birds have been trying to put together since Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday were terrorizing National League pitchers would potentially blow away like dust in the wind by this time next year.

I thought Donaldson would have been a nice balance to Harper. With the latter landing a $350 million contract, the former could be added for a single season of commitment. You have continuity and flexibility at the same time.

If you haven’t noticed, the transaction report is suddenly alive with free agent action after a sluggish start. I sure hope the Cardinals weren’t counting on their big offseason move being signing a creaky veteran on a short-term deal and then counting on Fowler to somehow raise his batting average and on base percentage 100 points.

I don’t mean to sound impatient as social media observers type “it’s still early” on every Donaldson reaction post. But we’ve seen this act before and this isn’t the winter for the Cardinals to tiptoe through the free agent minefield. It’s time to get something done to significantly help this team get better.

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