Maybe Sunday’s late-night trade between the Yankees and Twins isn’t going to knock March Madness brackets and the return of Tom Brady from the front of the sports fan’s mind, but it was a stunner and a headliner in its own right. And it was a bit of a head scratcher. Not in a “What the heck are these teams doing?” kind of way, but more in a “Whoa, there’s a lot going on there” kind of way.
There are a lot of moving parts to this deal, and we will launch into sorting it out with the understanding that some of the context of this trade is probably yet to be revealed. However it shakes out, we can at least start with this: It’s a good old-fashioned baseball trade, with two teams trying to improve themselves for the season to come and both moving quality veterans in a deal that has numerous ramifications for the rosters of both teams.
Let’s try to reason this thing out.
At the conclusion of the 2017 season, Gary Sanchez was hitting .283/.353/.567 after his age-24 season and averaging 48 homers and 121 RBIs per 162 games played. He had a second-place finish in AL Rookie of the Year balloting, an All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger award and even a few MVP votes.
Then it all went downhill, gradually, then really fast. In the aggregate, since 2017, Sanchez has hit .201/.299/.444 and has driven Yankees fans up a wall with his defensive shortcomings. Passed balls. Stolen bases. Wild pitches. At this point, it’s probably better for everybody’s peace of mind that Sanchez has finally moved on.
Still, someone has to catch, and it’s unclear how much of that question will be answered by the acquisition of Rortvedt, 23, a second-year catcher who has drawn raves for his defensive ability but at present doesn’t look like a big league regular at the plate. He hits from the left side, so if New York sees enough potential in his bat, then maybe they see him as holding down the heavy part of a platoon with returnee Kyle Higashioka, a righty hitter.
Urshela was a journeyman who really found himself in pinstripes and became a popular figure at Yankee Stadium. However, after a career season at age 27 in 2019, his numbers have declined in each of the past two seasons. He’s also not an ideal solution as an every-day defensive shortstop, which is what he was slated to be as the Yankees’ depth chart stood before this trade.
In Kiner-Falefa, who was a Twin for all of one day after Minnesota traded for him on Saturday, the Yankees have a bona fide top defender to hold down shortstop for the next season or two until top prospects Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza take over the position. He’s also a former Gold Glover at third base and even has some spot duty in the majors behind the plate.
Speaking of hitting, while Kiner-Falefa lacks Urshela’s power, he has an even better ability to get the bat on the ball, a…