With the Yankees needing bats this offseason, preferably from the left-handed side, the Minnesota Twins might end up being a perfect match for the Bronx Bombers. The two are familiar trade partners, notably sending Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez to the snowy lands of Minnesota in return for Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who ended up both playing below expectations.
An ugly trade, the Yankees could look to delve back into the same organization that dealt them that bad hand and, this time, attempt to win big. With the Twins potentially needing starting pitching as they watch Cy Young contender Sonny Gray and steady veteran Kenta Maeda hit the free agent market, Bobby Nightengale Jr. of the Star Tribune revealed that the Twins could look to move bats like Jorge Polanco or Max Kepler to try to bolster their pitching staff.
The Yankees have a plethora of pitching, and with the lack of big-time left-handed hitting on the free-agent market, they could trade a surplus to get a sizable offensive upgrade.
How Do the Yankees and Twins Match Up in a Deal?
The Minnesota Twins broke their 19-year curse of not winning a single playoff game with their victory in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series over the Toronto Blue Jays, finishing the sweep in Game 2 before falling in four games to the Houston Astros. Plenty of progress was made for a Twins squad loaded with power hitting and power pitching, as names like Matt Wallner emerged from their farm system and Pablo Lopez flourished in his first season with the Twins.
Despite the ridicule the Twins have received for their lack of playoff success, they did swindle the Yankees into taking a known clubhouse problem in Josh Donaldson, allowing them to sign Carlos Correa, who would have likely made a massive difference for the Yankees in the ALCS in 2022. Right now, they possess an excess in a talent pool that the Yankees have struggled with the past year, and Max Kepler has been on their radar for a while.
Kepler posted a 124 wRC+ with a 2.6 fWAR this past season, becoming more aggressive in-zone and generating more barrels and damage contact as a result. His swing is one that would be described as perfect for the Bronx, as according to Statcast, he would have had 28 HRs instead of the 24 he hit this season had he played at the Bronx. The 30-year-old left-handed outfielder posted a career-best .428 xwOBACON and 91.9 MPH Average Exit Velocity, with the Yankees finishing 28th in Home Runs and wRC+ from left-handed hitters, he would be a perfect fit for the middle of their order.
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The Yankees also struggled to get production from left field that they looked for, with both Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera struggling to give him much. Free agency doesn’t provide many enticing options, especially from the left-handed side. Jung-Hoo Lee could be an exciting signing, but it will likely require an adjustment period and isn’t a sure thing. Teams like the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres are known to be in on the Korean superstar, and the geographical location could present an advantage for West Coast teams over the Yankees.
Furthermore, Cody Bellinger is another hot name on the market, but questions loom regarding how sustainable his 2023 campaign was, whereas Kepler’s batted ball data would suggest there’s even more that he could unlock in the Bronx. Kepler brings the left-handed power the Yankees sorely miss, but he isn’t the only player the Yankees could target in Minnesota.
Infielder Jorge Polanco is under contract for two more seasons and could provide the Yankees switch-hitting power for the middle of their lineup as well. With a 121 wRC+ and 63 HRs since 2021, he’s been a top-five hitter at the position over that timespan and would be another hitter who could benefit from the short porch in right field. Polanco is one of the best switch-hitters in the game, but the issue is that he lacks defensive value. At second base in his career, Polanco has +2 DRS but -16 OAA and -8.8 UZR, which would lead you to believe he’s a poor defender there.
Polanco has dealt with injuries over the past two seasons, and given the emergence of Royce Lewis and Eduaord Julien in their infield, Minnesota might feel more comfortable dealing him than Kepler. Polanco has two club options for 2024 and 2025, owed $10.5 million next season and $12 million for the 2025 option, and with the Twins potentially looking to kill two birds with one stone, they could get pitching from the Yankees, open up $10.5 million to either add some pitching or right-handed power and also open up their infield.
The Yankees could use help in their infield, ranking 16th in wRC+ from the third base position (94) and fWAR (6.3), and while Polanco is brutal at the position defensively, perhaps the Yankees view his bat as valuable enough to keep him in the lineup and on the field. Furthermore, the Yankees might have more of an opening at DH if Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t make strides, and they may look to play Stanton in the outfield more as a way to get him going again.
An alternative idea would be to acquire Polanco and move steady second baseman Gleyber Torres, who’s set to hit free agency at the end of the season, but making a switch like that would come with its own complications. An already injury-prone Yankee team would take a reliable infielder like Gleyber off the team and add another question mark, and it would place tons of pressure on Oswald Peraza to perform.
Both players in this report would make the Yankees better, and they could offer arms like Nestor Cortes, Clarke Schmidt, Michael King, Randy Vasquez, or Jhony Brito to try to get a deal done, but it’ll rely heavily on the Twins’ level of interest in these players and the opportunities that become available for the Yankees.