On Sunday night, the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins pulled a trade completely out of left field that set Twitter on fire. When Brian Cashman and the Yankees are involved, no one knows what’s happening until a trade is announced. That’s what happened Sunday night when the Yankees traded Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to the Twins for Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Ben Rortvedt. On the surface, the trade was a bit of a head-scratcher for both sides. But when you dive into it, the details make more sense. Let’s dive into what this means for the Yankees right now and in the (near or far) future.
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Yankees Far From Done
Without knowing the end result, it’s tough to gauge the Yankees’ side of the trade. Brian Cashman is far from done this offseason, and could even flip one of these pieces in another trade. As of Sunday night/early Monday morning, the Yankees were said to be in on a trade to the Oakland Athletics for a combination of catcher Sean Murphy, left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea, and first baseman Matt Olson. With the addition of Donaldson and Kiner-Falefa, and the possibility of other additions, Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit could be on the move next.
Rortvedt and Kiner-Falefa Are Defense First
As far as the trade looks without any other moves. The Yankees move on from a defensive liability in Sanchez while adding a shortstop and a slugger at third. While the catcher they got in the deal with Rortvedt leaves much to be desired at the plate, he is very solid defensively behind the plate. As of now, the Yankees are planning to have Rortvedt and Kyle Higashioka a catching tandem. If Rortvedt can be more than just a liability at the plate, the defense alone will be enough to make him a solid addition. The 24-year old made his major league debut last season. He played in just 39 games while hitting .169 with three homers and seven RBI. He brings a left-handed bat to the lineup, even if it’s not a big one. Sanchez is a powerful bat, but he was always somewhat of a liability behind the plate. On top of that, his bat started to fall off the past few years. A change of scenery may do him good.
With Kiner-Falefa, it’s more of a defensive thought process, as his offensive metrics are less than ideal. His metrics page on Baseball Savant is very weak. He was in the 13th percentile or less in average exit velocity (85.5 mph), hard-hit rate (28.8 percent), xwOBA (.292), xSLG (.349), barrel rate (1.8 percent), and walk rate (4.1) last season. However, he didn’t strike out at a very high rate, just striking out 13.3 percent of the time.
On the defensive side, the potential utility guy had 10 defensive runs saved, a 152 out-of-zone rating, and 13 total zone runs. He also had a 2.3 fWAR and was fifth in the AL with a 2.0 defensive WAR. If the Yankees are to still add at shortstop, Kiner-Falefa would fill the utility role nicely. Since Tyler Wade is now with the Los Angeles Angels, that role is currently empty. The Twins flipped Kiner-Falefa just a day after they acquired him as part of a deal that sent Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers.
Adding Power at the Hot Corner
Donaldson adds a ton of power to the lineup and also adds better defense from the hot corner. His Baseball Savant page is glorious. He was in the 92nd percentile and above in AEV (94.1), hard-hit rate (52.7 percent), xwOBA (.388), xSLG (.542), barrel rate (17.4 percent), and walk rate (13.6 percent). That in Yankee Stadium is going to be scary.
On defense, he had 1 out above average (OAA), which is an upgrade over Urshela’s negative 5 OAA. He also had 1 DRS to Urshela’s negative 1 DRS and a 43 OOZ to Urshela’s 9 OOZ. While Donaldson has had injuries in the past, he played 135 games last season and could still be a 140+ game player at age 36. In addition, the Yankees are taking on Donaldson’s full owed contract of $50 million. That shows that they are not afraid to spend, and could still make another big splash.
How Does the Infield Currently Look?
With the trade, the Yankees’ infield has seen a shakeup. As it currently stands, it would be Voit, Torres, Kiner-Falefa, and Donaldson, from first to third. That with DJ LeMahieu floating between first and second, depending on the day. But one has to believe Torres will be the odd man out in any scenario. Even if the Bombers don’t add an Olson or a Freddie Freeman to first base, LeMahieu’s natural position is second. So it would make sense to keep him there full time. The way it currently looks though, the Yankees will most likely make an addition to first base. Which leaves Voit on the outside looking in as well. But only time will tell, so buckle up. It could be another crazy day in baseball and football, as it is the first day of the legal tampering window in the NFL.
Follow Alex Kielar on Twitter @AlexKielar
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