New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman continues to strike out regarding big acquisitions. Last year’s debacle was a blockbuster trade with the Minnesota Twins, sending Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela for Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and catcher Ben Rortvedt (who may or may not even exist) — the two infielders have failed miserably to live up to expectations.
In fact, if the Yankees could, Donaldson likely wouldn’t even be on the roster, but earning $25 million for the 2023 season cements his starting job. Donaldson was awful in 2022, recording a sub-100 wRC+ for the first time since 2012, landing at 97. He hit .222 with a .308 OBP, including 15 homers and 62 RBIs.
Just five games into the 2023 campaign, Donaldson is already dealing with a hamstring injury, featuring well below-average numbers. The sample size is small, but he started the season hitting .125 with a .176 OBP, good enough for a 29 wRC+.
IKF, on the other hand, has been just as bad. The 28-year-old has fallen into a utility role and has even begun playing the outfield since the Yankees can’t trust them defensively at shortstop. Across 22 plate appearances, he’s hitting .091 with a .091 OBP, presenting a -64 wRC+, indicating he’s 64% worse than the average MLB player.
The Yankees are a better team without Donaldson and IKF:
The Yankees are simply better off without Donaldson and IKF, but one of the pieces they moved in the trade last year is having a stellar start to the new season.
As referenced above, Urshela was part of the package that brought Donaldson and IKF to New York, but the 31-year-old third baseman is off to a hot start. Over 14 games and 58 plate appearances, Urshela is hitting .327 with a .362 OBP, with one homer and eight RBIs. He has a 19% strikeout rate and a 5.2% walk rate, posting a 119 wRC+ and already recording 0.4 WAR. In fact, Urshela has even begun playing some first base, which undoubtedly would’ve given Anthony Rizzo some time off and allowed DJ LeMahieu to man the hot corner without any problems.
The entire premise behind the Twins trade was to find a stopgap solution at shortstop, but IKF ended up being more of a liability than an asset. Anthony Volpe has already stolen the job away at 21 years old, and all the Yankees have left for it is a $25 million infielder who is being force-fed reps due to his price tag.
At 37 years old, Donaldson is well beyond his prime and trying to change his batting stance to boost his numbers. One would think his stance from several years ago when he was an MVP candidate would suffice, but his power metrics have dropped, and his swing decisions have become extraordinarily poor.
If only the Yankees could commit to players who genuinely want to be here and have plenty of upside. A similar situation is unfolding with Gleyber Torres, who continues to advocate for himself as a Yankee. Still, the trade rumors continue to swirl, and he could be moved at some point this season to bolster other positions.