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Moller: What are the Twins and Yankees thinking?

| Wednesday, March 16, 2022

There has been plenty of buzz around the Major League Baseball world since the lockout ended last week, and the trades and free agent deals seem to keep coming. Some of the biggest headliners have undoubtedly been the Matt Olsen trade to the Braves, the Giants signing Carlos Rodón and the Dodgers retaining Clayton Kershaw.

While most of these moves make sense, the biggest blockbuster trade so far has arguably been between the Twins and Yankees. With the trade, the Twins sent over third baseman Josh Donaldson, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and backup catcher Ben Rortvedt in exchange for catcher Gary Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshela.

As an avid Twins fan, I took a double take when I saw this trade. What are the Twins doing? Then I thought about it some more, and I was even more confused. What are the Yankees doing? This trade is just really bizarre for both teams. I expect both teams, especially the Twins, to continue to be active over the next week. I could see the Yankees make some more moves, too.

So how did it all lead up to this? It started when the Twins traded for Isiah Kiner-Falefa just a day before they dealt him to the Yankees. The Twins got Kiner-Falefa from the Rangers in exchange for catcher Mitch Garver.

Although at first it looked like the Twins had found a new shortstop, the Twins’ front office clearly used Kiner-Falefa as a stepping stone for a larger deal with the Yankees. The Yankees have been actively looking for an upgrade at shortstop, and they clearly had their eyes set on Kiner-Falefa. But, for whatever reason, it is likely the Rangers were unwilling to make a deal with the Yankees.

So, the Twins got Kiner-Falefa for the Yankees and used him to bait the Yankees into a blockbuster deal. In addition to Kiner-Falefa, they made sure the Yankees also took on Josh Donaldson’s contract that is worth $23 million a year. This was a huge move for a small market team like the Twins who simply don’t have that amount of money to spend. The aging Donaldson has had his fair share of injuries as well, and the Twins’ acquisition of Gio Urshela from the Yankees definitely more than makes up for the loss of Donaldson.

The other confusing piece of the deal was the Twins’ acquisition of catcher Gary Sanchez. Sanchez has received his fair share of hate from Yankees fans over the years for his poor fielding ability and his recent struggles from behind the plate. It’s not surprising that the Yankees were looking to deal him. Sanchez is long removed from his 2017 season where he hit .278 and blasted 33 home runs.

Over the last four seasons, Sanchez has hovered near .200, and his batting has just not been the same. It’s hard to say what the Twins are doing with Sanchez, but I anticipate the Twins to remain active over the next week. I also expect the Twins to deal Sanchez in the near future if the opportunity arises. The Twins need a shortstop and starting pitchers, and Sanchez could be used as a piece in a larger deal the Twins have in mind.

Overall, it’s hard to judge this move from the Twins’ perspective because there is still a lot of work to be done. They got a solid third baseman in Urshela to replace an aging, overpaid veteran in Donaldson; they freed up money to spend on free agents; and they have Sanchez as an option for future trades. Depending on what the Twins do in the coming weeks, this move could look genius. But it could also backfire and leave them with a below average catcher and without a starting shortstop.

From the Yankees side of things, I think this deal is bad for them. While Donaldson does provide more power than Urshela, he and Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole have some serious issues with each other. This could provide some clubhouse drama. Additionally, Donaldson has noticeably regressed from his MVP days, and he is not nearly worth his contract. The Yankees did get a better fielding shortstop in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but Kiner-Falefa has been a mediocre hitter. It feels like the Yankees could have done better.

Who knows, though, the Yankees could be using this deal as a building block for another deal as well to upgrade further at shortstop or add to their pitching staff. The post-lockout free agency period has just begun, and there are plenty of moves and deals to be made in the coming weeks that will shape the landscape of the 2022 Major League Baseball season.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

Contact Nate