Twins trade Polanco to Mariners in 5-player deal

January 30th, 2024

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- The quiet of the Twins’ offseason was finally shattered with a major deal on Monday night when Minnesota traded franchise fixture -- one of the club's longest-tenured players -- to Seattle in exchange for four players.

The return from the Mariners is right-handed starter , and right-handed reliever , as well as Minor League prospects -- ranked No. 79 in the game by MLB Pipeline -- and right-hander Darren Bowen. It’s an unsurprising deal that addresses the Twins’ big league depth needs on the pitching side and bolsters their farm system with a consensus Top 100 prospect.

Seattle is also sending cash considerations to Minnesota in the deal, which the Twins expect will allow them to seek additional help.

MIN receives: RHP Anthony DeSclafani, RHP Justin Topa, OF Gabriel Gonzalez (Pipeline's No. 79 prospect), RHP Darren Bowen, cash considerations
SEA receives: 2B Jorge Polanco

“There was a ton of interest in Polo, probably more at the prospect level for a good chunk of the offseason,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “I've been pretty consistent about our view of that, which is, we're trying to find a way to add to '24 and also keep an eye on the future. This was the first deal for us really that intersected both of those in a way that felt like it was above the line.”

This move doesn’t come as a surprise because it was long expected this offseason that the Twins could move either Polanco or outfielder Max Kepler to address other needs on their big league roster. The Twins are in good shape around the infield, with breakout rookie Edouard Julien ready to step into second base and No. 2 prospect Brooks Lee expected to be ready for the Majors at some point in 2024.

Though the Twins’ offense will undoubtedly take a hit with the departure of Polanco, who spent 10 seasons with the club and was one of its anchors toward the top of the lineup with a .796 OPS since 2019, the cash considerations could help free up some money for the Twins to continue bolstering their roster, with Falvey indicating that the Twins could turn their addition more to the position player side, where they could seek a righty bat.

“We’ll continue to look at different ways to potentially add to the flexibility of our outfield group depth,” Falvey said. “Our roster has so much unique flexibility to it … we don’t get hemmed into, we just need one position. I think we’re going to be flexible and open-minded to what it looks like with adds to the infield, what it looks like with adds to the outfield.”

The Twins also improved the top of their Minor League system with the addition of Gonzalez, a 20-year-old, bat-first outfielder who reached High-A in 2023 and will slot in as their No. 4 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, behind only Walker Jenkins, Brooks Lee and Emmanuel Rodríguez. Bowen, a 22-year-old right-hander who pitched at Single-A Modesto in '23, is also expected to enter the Twins’ Top 30 prospect list.

DeSclafani isn’t the flashiest addition to the rotation, as the veteran 33-year-old had a 4.88 ERA for the Giants last season, limited to only 99 2/3 innings across 19 appearances (18 starts) due to a right elbow flexor strain that cut short his campaign. Still, even a back-end starter could be significant to the team considering its relative lack of depth behind the existing five.

The Twins believe DeSclafani is healthy, and he could perhaps push Louie Varland out of the starting rotation -- perhaps initially to a bullpen role -- as a needed reinforcement ahead of a long season.

“We like this guy’s stuff,” Falvey said. “We think he has the ability to pitch anywhere in our rotation, but certainly a guy we think, when we saw just a couple short years ago, really performed.”

The Twins operated similarly last season when the Major League-ready Bailey Ober began the season in the Minors but was quickly called upon due to injuries to Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda. Such depth for 2024 was initially unclear before this trade, with No. 9 prospect David Festa likely the next man up but still unproven.

Topa should also be a significant get for a Twins bullpen that needed additional coverage in the middle innings following the departure of Emilio Pagán to the Reds and Dylan Floro to the Nationals. Topa, a 32-year-old sidearmer, posted a 2.61 ERA in 75 appearances for the Mariners in 2023, excelling at missing barrels (97th percentile of barrel rate) and posted an elite 57.4% ground-ball rate (94th percentile).

Alongside the earlier acquisition of Josh Staumont, the Twins’ pitching depth is in better shape than it was at the start of the offseason, though they’ll still need to count on continued improvement from within on the rotation side.