The New York Yankees finally awoke from slumber late Sunday night, connecting with the Minnesota Twins on a blockbuster trade that would send Gary Sanchez and infielder Gio Urshela on their way.
Sanchez, the Yankees’ homegrown catcher, simply couldn’t maintain consistency with his glove or bat over the past few seasons, so management felt as though it was time to sell. Sanchez finished the 2021 season with 23 homers, hitting .204. Sanchez’s best season came back in 2017 when he was an All-Star, hitting .278 with 33 homers and 90 RBIs.
Unfortunately, it was time to move on, acquiring catcher Ben Rortvedt from the Twins in the trade.
As for Urshela, skipper Aaron Boone had indicated that he could be their starting first baseman this upcoming year during a spring training session on Sunday. Gio hit .267 last season with 14 homers and 49 RBIs. As a solid third baseman with quality hitting metrics, Urshela is an interesting piece to lose, especially gaining Josh Donaldson to replace him on the hot corner.
Per the Yankees PR:
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.
Donaldson is currently 36 years old, with age taking its toll the past few seasons. Last year, he hit .24 7/135 games with Minnesota, recording a 21% strikeout rate and 13.6% walk rate.
Historically, Donaldson has been a great defender and features a lucrative power bat. His home run numbers did decrease a bit last season, but he’s only two years removed from sashing 37 homers, and he’s experienced tremendous success in Yankee stadium in the past.
General manager Brian Cashman will consume the $50 million owed to Donaldson over the next two years, which is an extraordinary number that takes a ton of money off the board for the Bombers. To be quite honest, I’m not sure that acquiring Donaldson was the best move, as it seems his slugging ability is the main focus with his value compared to Urshela. It seems as though it was included to push the package over the hump.
It was clear that the Yankees desperately wanted to acquire Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, a 26-year-old shortstop who hit .271 last year with eight homers and 53 RBIs. Falefa recorded just a 13.3% strikeout rate, which will be a welcomed number for the Yankees.
Clearly, they wanted the defensive insurance, as Falefa posted an 8.1 defensive WAR last season, including a .972 fielding percentage over 1360 innings.
Falefa isn’t going to offer the slugging Carlos Correa would’ve presented on a massive contract, but he will save them a ton of cash moving forward, being arbitration-eligible this year and a free agent in 2024. The Yankees still have two years of team control over him, allowing their young prospects to climb the ranks and become legitimate major-league options down the road.
The Bombers also acquired Ben Rortvedt in the trade with Minnesota. Having hit just .169 last season over 39 games in the majors, I can’t see Rortvedt becoming a starter for the Yankees this upcoming year. New catching coach Tanner Swanson did work with Rortvedt back in Minnesota, so there’s a connection.
Clearly, the Yankees will have an alternative plan at catcher, meaning they could acquire one via trade. In free agency, there aren’t many quality options to choose from, so unless they plan on giving Kyle Higashioka the reins to the starting gig, they do have a void to fill. Nonetheless, Rortvedt is a solid defensive catcher, posting a .989 fielding percentage last year, allowing nine stolen bases and catching seven runners. He allowed just two passed balls over 256 innings of play.
Altogether, this trade is quite interesting, acquiring an aging player in Josh Donaldson, a stopgap shortstop, and a reserve catcher. It is quite clear that acquiring Kiner-Falefa was the primary asset for the Yankees, being forced to take on Josh Donaldson’s contract as part of the deal.