Yankees get Donaldson, send Sánchez, Urshela to Twins

March 14th, 2022

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have reconfigured their infield in a blockbuster trade, acquiring third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Twins in exchange for catcher Gary Sánchez and third baseman Gio Urshela.

New York will also acquire catcher Ben Rortvedt in the deal, with no money changing hands between the clubs. Kiner-Falefa expressed his excitement following the trade, posting on Twitter: "Always wanted to be like #2!!!," referencing Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter. "Let’s go @Yankees."

Yankees get: 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, C Ben Rortvedt
Twins get: C Gary Sánchez, INF Gio Urshela

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has sought a shortstop since the team moved Gleyber Torres back to second base last September. There was speculation that the Yankees could play in the deep end of the free-agent pool, but they have appeared hesitant to commit a multi-year deal to Carlos Correa or Trevor Story.

New York’s infield now projects to feature DJ LeMahieu or Luke Voit at first base, Torres at second base, Kiner-Falefa at shortstop and Donaldson at third base. That is subject to change -- the Yankees are interested in acquiring a first baseman, having discussed a Matt Olson trade with the Athletics while also being connected to free agents Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo.

Donaldson, 36, is a three-time All-Star (2014-16) and two-time Silver Slugger (2015-16) who won the 2015 American League MVP Award while playing for the Blue Jays. He batted .247/.352/.475 (127 OPS+) in 135 games for the Twins last season, tallying 26 doubles, 26 homers and 72 RBIs.

He was the Twins’ highest-paid player, now owed $50 million through 2024. Donaldson’s arrival provides an interesting subplot, considering that Donaldson publicly called out Yankees ace Gerrit Cole last season, noting that Cole’s spin rate dropped after Major League Baseball cracked down on pitchers’ use of sticky substances.

Kiner-Falefa’s stay with Minnesota lasted mere hours (officially 35 hours and four minutes, to be exact), having been dealt to the Twins by the Rangers on Saturday in exchange for catcher Mitch Garver.

Earlier in the offseason, the Yankees had been connected to Kiner-Falefa, who turns 27 later this month and won a Gold Glove Award at third base in 2020. Kiner-Falefa batted .271/.312/.357 (85 OPS+) for Texas last season, leading his team in games played (158), hits (172), stolen bases (20), multi-hit games (44) and three-plus hit games (16). He earned $2 million last year and is arbitration eligible for the second time in 2022, making him a potential stopgap until prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza are ready for the big leagues.

Sánchez’s departure raises a question about the Yankees’ starting catcher situation, hinting at another move potentially to follow. Kyle Higashioka is the incumbent backup behind the plate, and Rob Brantly is also on the 40-man roster. The 24-year-old Rortvedt made his big league debut last year, picking up 15 hits in 89 at-bats (.169). He was regarded as the best defensive catcher in the Twins' organization, according to Baseball America, and has previously worked with Bombers catching coach Tanner Swanson.

The 29-year-old Sánchez had been one of the longest-tenured players in the Yankees' organization, having been signed as an international free agent in July 2009. The fastest player in American League history to 100 home runs in terms of games played, Sánchez’s defense was a hot-button issue with club officials, who were split the last few seasons about continuing with him behind the plate.

A two-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger recipient in 2017, Sánchez earned $6.35 million last season and is set to receive a raise this spring in his final year of arbitration eligibility.

Manager Aaron Boone touted Urshela earlier on Sunday as the Yankees’ likely Opening Day shortstop, though he hedged that by saying that the landscape could change quickly. The 30-year-old Urshela had been a nice find for the Bombers, emerging as an above-average contributor after being claimed on waivers from the Blue Jays late in the 2018 season.

Urshela played 291 games for the Yanks over the past three seasons, mostly as the club’s starting third baseman. He is set to earn $6.55 million this season after batting .267/.301/.419 with 18 doubles, two triples, 14 homers and 49 RBIs in 116 games last year.