The Yankees finally made their first big move of the offseason in a surprising trade with the Twins, but who was the winner of the trade?
Last night, the Yankees made their first big splash of the offseason. New York sent Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, and Ben Rortvedt. This was a move that took many by surprise.
The move comes hours after Yankees manager Aaron Boone proclaimed that Gio Urshela was the Yankees shortstop and that “the landscape could change along the way”. Boone was also quoted saying “I know Cash [GM Brian Cashman] and the front office right now are in overdrive and evaluating and having those conversations, whether it’s free agents, through trade markets. I know they’re working to find a place where it potentially improves our club.”
Kiner-Falefa was linked to the Yankees for a while, but the former Texas Ranger was sent to Minnesota on Saturday in a trade involving Mitch Garver. The Twins eventually dealt him to New York the following day.
This fills a hole in the Yankees lineup, as they were in need of a shortstop. Kiner-Falefa is a defensive wizard, and defense was a weakness in the Yankees infield last season. Last season he batted .271/.312/.357 with eight home runs and 53 RBIs. The one concern with Kiner-Falefa is his OPS, which was a dreadful .669. Kiner-Falefa also can fill in at second base, third base, and even catcher. Many are speculating that this move takes the Yankees out of the Carlos Correa and Trevor Story sweepstakes, but don’t rule them out quite yet as they remain in talks with both parties.
The Yankee also acquired former American League MVP and Silver Slugger Josh Donaldson in the deal. Last year, Donaldson hit .247 with 26 doubles, 26 home runs and 72 RBIs in 135 games with the Twins. He provides more power to a Yankees lineup that is propelled by big power guys in Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, and Giancarlo Stanton. The 36 year old also was a critic of Gerrit Cole and pitchers using foreign substances to their advantage. The Yankees claimed the last two years of Donaldson’s contract, paying him around $42 million.
Both sides also exchanged catchers in the deal. Gary Sanchez was flipped for Ben Rortvedt in the deal. Sanchez has been a liability behind the dish in recent years, and his offensive production has declined quite significantly. Rortvedt made his major league debut in 2021, batting .169/229/.281 with three home runs and seven RBIs through 39 games. He has been labeled as the best defensive catcher in the Twins system, so he has a solid amount of upside. Rortvedt also worked with current Yankees catching coach Tanner Swanson when he was a member of the Twins coaching staff.
The Yankees lineup ended up becoming better last night, as the addition of Donaldson provides an upgrade at third base, while Kiner-Falefa adds spectacular defense and versatility. Rortvedt is also a solid depth piece. Unloading a liability in Sanchez is a good move, but trading a fan-favorite in Urshela did not go over well amongst fans but it was for the better. Brian Cashman and the Yankees front office still have their work cut out for them this offseason though, as a lot of changes need to be made.