Minnesota Twins: What the Donaldson Trade means for the Twins

Minnesota Twins designated hitter Josh Donaldson is congratulated in the dugout. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
Minnesota Twins designated hitter Josh Donaldson is congratulated in the dugout. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

Minnesota Twins fans have had to go through a lot over the past few years. They were forced to watch two American League Central Division champions get swept in 2019 and 2020. They had to watch a rotation implode in 2021. They had to sit through three offseasons where the Twins made exactly one big trade (for Kenta Maeda) and one big signing (Josh Donaldson).

This year, the team started off the offseason slow, adding just Dylan Bundy, but since the lockout has ended, the team has been VERY active, trading Mitch Garver for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and top prospect Chase Petty for two-time All-Star Sonny Gray. Late last night, they made another deal:

This is easily the biggest trade the Twins have made in a while and there’s so much to take in, even half a day after the trade was completed. Typically I’d be rushing to put together a grade for the team, but right now, that seems impossible (for the time being). Let’s take a look at why.

We break down what the Minnesota Twins’ trade of Josh Donaldson means for the team going forward.

When the Twins traded away Mitch Garver for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the logic seemed clear. They fixed one of the biggest holes in their lineup and set up Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt as a solid catching duo while the team retooled. Then, the Sonny Gray trade happened.

Trading a high potential, low floor prospect for a 32-year-old who is a Top 25 starter when he’s on indicated the Twins wanted to compete. They just needed to add one more starter, and they would head into the season as a threat to the Chicago White Sox. Then last night happened.

In a vacuum, the Twins got a lot worse over the past few days. When healthy, Josh Donaldson and Mitch Garver were two of the Twins’ top hitters, and replacing them with Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela is a serious downgrade on offense and ESPECIALLY on defense.

Trading away Isiah Kiner-Falefa re-opens a huge hole at shortstop, considering Urshela is a meh defender at third and unsightly at short. Giving up Ben Rortvedt means the minimal catching depth the team had is now gone. So why make the deals? Removing Josh Donaldson’s money seems to be the only answer.

There are basically two paths here now: massive rebuild or go after a big name free agent. As Minnesota sports fans, there is always pessimism that the team is cutting it’s payroll just to line the Pohlad’s pockets. And to be fair, that’s a possibility.

The team could have made these moves ro make the team cheaper while they don’t compete, while also keeping spots open for the top young prospects who currently are in Triple-AAA. The Twins have nearly $50 million to reach their typical payroll number of $130 million, and if the team elects not to spend anywhere near that much, the fans should be rightfully outraged.

That’s the typical belief though, so there’s another, more hopeful, path here. There is a very realistic possibility that the Twins cleared up Donaldson’s money to make a huge free agent move, and there are still a few that could be made.

While the team never seemed to make a push at Carlos Correa, the team has been in on Trevor Story. Though the team could have probably afforded Story without giving up Donaldson, Garver, or Rortvedt, there is now no reason that they couldn’t afford him.

If the team elects to add him and sign another starter such as Michael Pineda or Johnny Cueto, the team would set themselves up for immediate contention in 2022 and with Gray, Buxton, Polanco, Maeda, and potentially Story as the only veterans on the books for 2023, the team could be big players next year as well.

This is all complete speculation, as the Minnesota Twins could pull the rug out from under us with yet ANOTHER trade, and while it’s easy to be pessimistic, yesterday’s trades offer hope and excitement for a fanbase that was starving for it. Buckle in Twins fans, because we don’t seem to be done yet.

Minnesota Twins: Breaking Down and Grading the Sonny Gray Trade. dark. Next