Yankees outright release buried Josh Donaldson, hinting at new drama

Feels like there's more to this story.

New York Yankees v Colorado Rockies
New York Yankees v Colorado Rockies / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages

On the surface, the 2023 New York Yankees releasing Josh Donaldson while playing out the string in a lost season doesn't sound all that shocking.

Donaldson's contract came with a $6 million buyout for 2024, which the Yankees were sure to pay to get him far away from the Bronx. He was placed on the 60-Day IL on July 21, making Sept. 14 his earliest possible return date. In recent days, it seemed he was likely to make that return; Aaron Boone talked up a potential rehab assignment this past weekend in Tampa, and Donaldson took BP with the team several times in August.

So what changed between the weekend and Tuesday afternoon, when the Yankees regurgitated Donaldson back to the front of their mouths and expelled him from the roster?

He had been hidden from the big-league roster already. If New York had no use for him in late September, they could've just fabricated a "setback," then silently declined his contract terms in the offseason. They definitely didn't have to drop a public shaming on Aug. 29. So why did they? What did Donaldson do?

Yankees release Josh Donaldson out of nowhere on Tuesday afternoon

New York released Donaldson two days ahead of the last possible day he could sign with a new team, play on their postseason roster, and save the Yankees $228,000.13 (the prorated league minimum for September's action). That could be the impetus for his release. Then again...

Any potentially dramatic turn of events wouldn't be Donaldson's first. He shanked 2022's mojo when he provoked Tim Anderson of the White Sox. He called Gerrit Cole a cheater in 2021, then joined Cole's team a few months later. He was imported to bring "edge" to the Yankees. Unfortunately, he was on the "edge" of a statistical cliff, and mostly spent his tenure in pinstripes chirping at the Rays while they dismissed him entirely.

All told, Donaldson's two failed years in the Bronx cost $56 million, marking Brian Cashman's most indefensible trade, all in the name of advanced metrics (for an aging bat) and getting something for Gary Sánchez.

Tuesday's move cleans up the Yankees' books, though after they DFA'd Greg Allen recently, they didn't really need a 40-man spot to accommodate any September call-ups like Austin Wells. It certainly seems like Donaldson might've mouthed off to earn one last piece of public scorn in New York (and remove any doubt that the Yankees might try to see what they had for 2024, considering they had to pay him a buyout anyway).

The Donaldson Era is officially over, but its stench seems poised to linger far longer than any other previous Yankee contract gaffes.