Why the Yankees released Josh Donaldson now

Jul 5, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson (28) hits a single against the Baltimore Orioles during the second inning at Yankee Stadium.

On the surface, it seemed an odd decision, or at least odd timing: Why would the Yankees release Josh Donaldson while the player was on the 60-day injured list, and not occupying roster space?

The answer, per league sources, is that the Yankees wanted to give Donaldson a chance to play in the postseason.

Donaldson has told the team that his calf is feeling better, and that he will be able to play in September. Problem is, the Yankees are going with a youth movement these last few weeks of the season, giving Oswald Peraza the majority of the playing time at third base. Donaldson is therefore blocked.

The trade deadline is long past, so the Yankees cannot move Donaldson to a contender. But by releasing him today, New York has done him a solid by giving him the chance to sign elsewhere before the Sept. 1 deadline to be eligible for a postseason roster.

If a contender wants to take a flier on Donaldson, he will become an unrestricted free agent after clearing waivers at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, a league source said.

For the Yankees, Donaldson represents a largely disappointing trade. Before the 2022 season, the Yanks sent Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to Minnesota for Donaldson, catcher Ben Rortvedt and utility man Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Donaldson’s defense remained strong, but his hitting skills all but vanished in New York. Across two seasons he hit .207 with 25 homers, 77 RBI and a .678 OPS in 165 games.

Kiner-Falefa struggled last year as the everyday shortstop but has become a team and fan favorite in a more versatile role this season. Rortvedt has dealt with numerous injuries but has lately impressed American League Cy Young front-runner Gerrit Cole with his defensive work.