Yankees trade Urshela, Sanchez to Twins for Kiner-Falefa, Donaldson

Yankees trade Urshela, Sanchez to Twins for Kiner-Falefa, Donaldson

TAMPA — The Yankees’ offseason didn’t stay quiet for long.

Hours after Aaron Boone noted the Yankees could look quite different by the time Opening Day rolled around, they swung a huge trade with Minnesota on Sunday night that remade their roster and ended Gary Sanchez’s time in The Bronx.

He also brought third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Yankees, where he’ll be teammates with Gerrit Cole after Donaldson called out Cole for his use of sticky substances last June.

The bombshell trade sent Sanchez and Gio Urshela to the Twins in exchange for Donaldson, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and catcher Ben Rortvedt.

The move leaves the Yankees with a drastically altered infield and a new backstop.

Gary Sanchez
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Gio Urshela
Gio Urshela
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And they might not be done.

The Yankees also must deal with the dynamic of Donaldson and Cole. Donaldson helped make Cole the face of MLB’s crackdown on the use of illegal foreign substances by pitchers when he noted Cole’s immediate drop in spin rate.

On the field, Donaldson, 36, hit 26 homers with the Twins last season. He’s owed $50 million over the remainder of his contract — $42 million over the next two seasons with an $8 million buyout in 2025.

With Donaldson at third, Kiner-Falefa — just traded from Texas to Minnesota on Saturday — becomes the Yankees’ new starting shortstop.

Josh Donaldson
Josh Donaldson
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The Yankees had been in the market for an upgrade at the position since the end of the failed Gleyber Torres experiment last season.

The arrival of the glove-first Kiner-Falefa, 26, indicates the organization is willing to wait on top prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe — barring another trade — instead of signing one of the top remaining free-agent shortstops, Carlos Correa or Trevor Story.

The 21-year-old Peraza is expected to begin the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Volpe, 20, with Double-A Somerset.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Isiah Kiner-Falefa
PA

Scouts have indicated Peraza could be ready for the majors by the end of this season and Volpe by 2023, but both need more seasoning.

Ben Rortvedt, a lefty-swinging catcher, is the other piece of the trade.

The 24-year-old made his debut last season and has played just 39 games in the majors. He and Kyle Higashioka could share catching duties.

In the process, the Yankees jettisoned a pair of players who have had significant highs and lows in The Bronx, with Sanchez bursting onto the scene in 2016, hitting 20 homers in just 53 games. He was an All-Star in 2017 and 2019, but was dreadful in 2018 and 2020.

Ben Rortvedt
Ben Rortvedt
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Although he bounced back a bit offensively last season, Sanchez’s defense was suspect and he’s due around $8 million in his final year of arbitration before hitting free agency next season.

Urshela was an excellent find by the Yankees and took over at third with a terrific 2019 season, although he fell off last season.

And since they didn’t give up any prospects in the trade with the Twins, they could use some of that capital to acquire Oakland’s Matt Olson, with the A’s in a fire sale.

First base is another area of ​​need after the Yankees soured on Luke Voit’s inability to stay on the field. Anthony Rizzo could be brought back as a free agent, with Freddie Freeman seen as more of a long shot, with the Braves and Dodgers also involved.

For now, Voit remains at first, with Torres at second and DJ LeMahieu now in a role in which he can move around the infield.

As things stand, the Yankees will still be in need of bounce-back seasons from Torres and LeMahieu.

And in addition to still being in the market for a first baseman, they won’t rule out more help in the outfield.

It all came after Boone said of the silent beginning to the Yankees’ offseason, “The winter, so to speak, is not over. … And the winner is crowned at the end of October. There’s a lot of times you can win the offseason — or lose the offseason, whatever the perception may be. In the end, we want to be the last team standing in October. And I would say, evaluating our offseason and winter is a little premature.”

He also added, “We can win now with what we have.”

That’s no longer an issue.

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