Twins acquire Sánchez, Urshela in Donaldson deal with Yanks

March 14th, 2022

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- What just happened?

Forget everything you thought you knew about the Minnesota Twins' offseason. Scrap all of those thoughts, gather them in a big pile in your backyard, and burn them.

The Twins set the Hot Stove ablaze with a stunning five-player blockbuster trade with their longtime nemeses in the Bronx in the deep hours of Sunday night, acquiring catcher  and infielder  from the Yankees in exchange for third baseman Josh Donaldson, catcher Ben Rortvedt and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, whose tenure in Minnesota didn't make it to the 36-hour mark.

In the dizzying span of those 36 hours, the Twins seemed to have addressed their need at shortstop -- and immediately flipped him away. They got the final two years of Donaldson's contract off the books, freeing up their payroll to reallocate -- and reinvest -- as they wish. They traded away two catchers and acquired another in desperate need of a change in scenery. Their first-round pick from the most recent MLB Draft is gone.

They did acquire the splashy starter they desperately needed to patch up their depleted rotation -- and, yes,  is still a member of the Minnesota Twins. Two Minor League arms also scooted over to the Twins, including one who will slot into their top 30 prospects.

Got all that?

It's a lot, so here are the details of Sunday night's trade:

TWINS ACQUIRE: C Gary Sánchez, INF Gio Urshela
YANKEES ACQUIRE: 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, C Ben Rortvedt

And just to clean up the chaos of the last 36 hours, here's a full summary of all the wheeling and dealing done in that time by president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine, who put on the best two-day Jerry Dipoto impression seen from the organization in recent history, if not ever:

TWINS ACQUIRE: C Gary Sánchez, INF Gio Urshela, RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Ronny Henriquez, RHP Francis Peguero
TWINS TRADE AWAY: 3B Josh Donaldson, C Mitch Garver, C Ben Rortvedt, RHP Chase Petty

But stay tuned, because it's likely that list of transactions will grow before the dust settles on this Twins offseason (if you can call it that).

Important fallout from Sunday night's trade is that the Twins are now free of the $50 million guaranteed to Donaldson over the remaining two years of the four-year, $92 million contract he signed before the 2020 season. That's money they can now allocate to more needed pitching -- though the free-agent market is now sparse on that end -- or to their renewed need at shortstop.

Though there was immediate speculation that the Twins might seek to flip Sánchez, too, reports from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal indicated that the Twins plan to keep the embattled former Yankees backstop as a complement to 24-year-old Ryan Jeffers, who was set to assume the starting role upon the trade of Garver to the Rangers on Saturday.

Considering that Sánchez, like Garver, is also a right-handed hitter with uncommon pop for the position, it somewhat resembles the catching situation the Twins had before this dealing began, and Falvey has made no secret of the fact that he's comfortable with a timeshare behind the plate in this modern era of catcher usage. A new home might help Sánchez after he hit .204/.307/.423 with 23 homers in 117 games for the Yankees last season, and the power has never been a question, as Sánchez has clubbed 18 or more homers in each of the last five full seasons.

It's tough to imagine Urshela sliding in at shortstop for the Twins, considering he primarily played third base for the Yankees and accounted for minus-13 outs above average there during his career in the Bronx. The Twins had a defensively limited shortstop in Jorge Polanco but moved him away in favor of improved defense at the position, which they also prioritized when they initially traded for Kiner-Falefa on Saturday.

That means Urshela, who hit .292/.335/.480 across his three seasons in the Bronx, could be a more natural fit at the opening created by Donaldson's departure at the hot corner, though the Twins also have top prospect Jose Miranda, their reigning Minor League Player of the Year, as a candidate at that position.

So the Twins could still need a shortstop -- with some big options left out there. Even with the big addition of Gray earlier in the day, they likely still need a handful of pitchers to complete their rotation and bullpen. They now have considerable money from Donaldson's contract freed up.

The Twins entered this offseason needing a starting shortstop and many answers in the starting rotation. They started by taking a more conventional road -- then veered off that road and started shooting fireworks out of the top of their car.

Sunday night marked a stunner, to be sure. But it also begs the question: What could be next?