Minnesota Twins: Re-Grading the Donaldson Trade after Two Months

The New York Yankees left Minnesota yesterday and while the Minnesota Twins face a brutal challenge with the major league clubs facing off, this offers a good chance for us to look back at the deal and how it’s progressed through the first two months of the year.

The original deal saw Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, Ben Rortvedt, and cash to the New York Yankees for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela, but unlike most trades, I held off on grading this one. I wanted to wait to see how things would pan out.

We all know about what happened next: The Twins signed Carlos Correa, using the money they saved by moving Donaldson. The Yankees stuck with their new group, and both teams are in first place in their respective divisions. Now, it’s time to re-grade the deal with a more full grasp of the deal.

What grade do the Minnesota Twins receive for the Josh Donaldson deal, two months later?

 

Minnesota Twins

New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson turns a double play against the Minnesota Twins. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

New York Yankees Get: SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 3B Josh Donaldson, C Ben Rortvedt

The deal was called a blockbuster right away, and for good reason. From the Twins’ point of view, they gave up quite a bit. When the team made the deal, they gave up Kiner-Falefa (their starting shortstop for a short period), Donaldson (their big-money FA and starting 3B), and Rortvedt (a huge part of their catching depth.

The signing of Correa made the loss of Kiner-Falefa irrelevant, and while he’s had a solid season for New York, losing two seasons of IKF don’t hurt. As for Ben Rortvedt, he was supposed to be a key part of the catching depth for the Twins. For the Yankees, he’s slated to miss much of (if not the entire) season, and the Twins replaced him with Godoy.

Josh Donaldson was always going to be the primary on the field loss here. IKF and Rortvedt filled needs, but neither was considered an impact player. Donaldson, on the other hand, had a much bigger impact.

In his two years here, he put together a .243/.355/.474 slashline, good for an .829 OPS and his defense was solid as well. Unfortunately, the Twins needed money and moving Donaldson’s remaining $38 million was necessary.

In hindsight, the Twins moved on at the right time. IKF has been solid for the Yanks, but only in a Nick Gordon with better defense kind of way. Rortvedt hasn’t played for them. Donaldson boasts a 1.2 bWAR, but is mired in controversy and the Twins are better off without him.

Minnesota Twins Get: C Gary Sanchez and 3B Gio Urshela

In the return, the Twins got back two players who have played key roles for the team thus far. Gio Urshela has come up clutch hits multiple times for this team and while defense metrics don’t love his play, he’s come up with a lot of clutch pays like this:

He’s also hitting the ball decently well. His .278/.332/.409 slashline has lead to a 117 OPS+ that is above league average, even if his .741 OPS is a bit under average. Overall, he’s brought a positive energy to the team and been a fine third baseman for a team that’s needed some stability. Sanchez was the real *catch* here (Get it?).

After trading away Mitch Garver to get Isiah Kiner-Falefa then moving Rortvedt in this deal, Gary Sanchez needed to play well to live up to this deal. Through the Twins’ first 59 games, Sanchez has played in 45 of them, 25 at catcher.

While his offense still isn’t as good as it was in his New York prime, he’s posting the best batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS+ since his 2019 All-Star season. On top of that, he’s improved his framing and made strides as a defender. He’s been the real prize here.

Grading this Deal for the Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins removed Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson from the team, and along with it $27 million in salary and a huge headache. In return, the Twins got two solid starters in Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez while freeing up enough cash to go and land the best free agent available in Correa. This deal was a massive success.

Grade: A.