The New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins worked late into the evening hours on Sunday in order to finalize a five-player blockbuster deal headlined by star third baseman Josh Donaldson.
In total, the deal sends Donaldson, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and catcher Ben Rortvedt to the Yankees. Meanwhile, the Twins acquired catcher Gary Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshela.
The New York Yankees today announced that they have acquired INF Josh Donaldson, INF Isiah Kiner-Falefa and C Ben Rortvedt from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for C Gary Sánchez and INF Gio Urshela.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 14, 2022
Donaldson is the clear centerpiece of the deal. Despite being 36 years old, he remains one of the premier hitters in baseball. Just last season, he ranked among the top-eight percent of all qualified hitters in exit velocity, hard-hit rate, barrel rate, walk rate, xwOBA, and xSLG. He had average plate vision, striking out in 21 percent of trips to the plate, and is slightly above average in terms of fielding. By the end of the 2021, he had put together a .247/.352/.475 slash line with 26 homers, 72 RBI, 74 walks, and 114 strikeouts.
Donaldson’s contract is a whole separate part of the deal itself. He’ll rake in $44 million over the next two seasons and also had a post-2023 buyout worth $8 million that has been converted to a $6 million mutual option. New York will pay the entirety of this $50 million sum, which explains why the Yankees didn’t have to part with any key prospects to complete the trade.
In addition to Donaldson, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa is a key infield piece heading to the Bronx. The 26-year-old is headed to his third team in two days after being traded from the Rangers to the Twins on Saturday. The Hawaii native is an above-average defender who can hold his own at the plate. He slashed .271/.312/.357 with eight homers, 53 RBI, a 4.1 percent walk rate, and a 13.3 percent strikeout rate in 2021. Kiner-Falefa’s walk totals were low, but so were his strikeout totals. Quite simply, he puts the ball in play. He also swiped 20 bags on 25 attempts while his sprint speed ranked among the 75th percentile.
Young catcher Ben Rortvedt is the final piece heading to the Yankees. He made his MLB debut last season, slashing just .169/.229/.281 with three homers, seven RBI, six walks, and 29 strikeouts through 39 games. His stats at the plate are not great, but he makes hard contact and is still young. Meanwhile, defensively, the 24-year-old has adopted a one-leg stance similar to the one that the Yankees preached with Sanchez, so he should fit right in. He has good receiving skills and impressive pop time.
Speaking of Sanchez, he’s heading to the Twins, giving Minnesota an impact player behind the dish after it traded Mitch Garver on Saturday. In 2021, Sanchez slashed .204/.307/.423 with 23 homers, 54 RBI, 52 walks, and 121 strikeouts. While his batting average was subpar for a fourth consecutive season, he continued to hit for power. He ranked among the top-15 percent of hitters or better in maximum exit velocity, barrel rate, and walk rate. He’s not great defensively, posting below-average framing and throwing metrics. Last year alone, he threw out just 10 of 50 base-stealers, dropping him to 75-for-184 throughout his six-year career. He’s on the final year of his contract and should fetch just south of $8 million during arbitration.
Urshela is the fifth and final piece in this deal. The 30-year-old spent 96 games at third base and 28 games at shortstop in 2021. Defensively, he finished the year with five outs below average and 3.0 dWAR. Meanwhile, with a bat in his hands, Urhsela racked up a .267/.301/.419 slash line. He added 14 homers, 49 RBI, 20 walks, 109 strikeouts, and -8.2 oWAR. He avoided arbitration with a $6.55 million contract for 2022 but will be eligible once more next offseason.
All in all, the Yankees immediately emerge from this deal with a grin. They traded two veterans on soon-to-expire contracts for a mammoth upgrade at third base, a solution to their shortstop questions, and a raw but promising young catcher. It will cost New York significant money, but that’s a fair price to pay considering the left side of their infield received a hefty makeover.
For the Twins, the deal makes sense financially. Trading Donaldson creates flexibility so that they can allocate money to various areas of need in the coming weeks. Plus, although Donaldson can’t be replaced via the open market, Minnesota can work to fill his void by signing a younger, much less expensive option. However, losing an impact player like Donaldson hurts, and it’s also a shock to see Kiner-Falefa flipped so quickly. Considering how cost-effective his salary is, it is surprising to see that the Twins didn’t find a way to keep him.
Looking ahead, this deal almost certainly takes the Yankees out of the running for Trevor Story or Carlos Correa. Meanwhile, it indicates that the Twins have more moves to come, including potential interest in Story or Correa.