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The New York Yankees remade the left side of their infield, acquiring former AL MVP Josh Donaldson, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and backup catcher Ben Rortvedt from the Minnesota Twins on Sunday night for catcher Gary Sánchez and third baseman Gio Urshela,
New York jettisoned Sánchez, a two-time All-Star who’s been a defensive liability and slumped at the plate in four straight seasons.
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Donaldson, yet another right-handed bat in the Yankees righty-heavy batting order, becomes a teammate of Gerrit Cole after suggesting last June that the Yankees ace had been trying to hide the use of unauthorized grip aides.
Kiner-Falefa was acquired by the Twins just on Saturday from Texas in a deal for catcher Mitch Garver. Earlier Sunday, Minnesota traded last year’s first-round pick in the amateur draft, 18-year-old right-hander Chase Petty, to Cincinnati for starting pitcher Sonny Gray.
No cash was involved in this trade. The Yankees become responsible for Donaldson’s $21 million salary in each of the next two seasons plus a $16 million mutual option for 2024 with a $6 million buyout if declined by the team. He agreed to a $92 million, four-year contract with the Twins, the richest free-agent deal in franchise history.
Donaldson was the 2015 AL MVP with Toronto and was an All-Star in three straight seasons from 2014-16. Now 36, he hit .247 with 26 homers and 72 RBIs last year in his second season with the Twins.
New York is looking to retool an offense that scored two runs or fewer in 44 games and was shut out eight times. Right-handed batters filled 68.6% of New York’s plate appearances last season (4,160 of 6,060), and the Yankees are trying to add a left-handed-hitting first baseman.
Kiner-Falefa, who turns 27 on March 23, was a Gold Glove third baseman during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, then was moved to shortstop last year.
He became expendable when the Rangers signed Corey Seager on Dec. 1, the day before the lockout, and was traded Saturday to the Twns. He hit .271 with eight homers and 53 RBIs last season. Kiner-Falefa is eligible for arbitration for 2022 and ’23, and for free agency after the 2024 season.
New York was looking to add a shortstop after shifting Gleyber Torres to second base on Sept. 13 for the remainder of the season. Torres had 18 errors at shortstop last season, second-most in the AL at the time of his move.
Sánchez, 29, was an All-Star in 2017 and 2019 but has failed to match his production of 2017, when he hit .278 with 33 homers and 90 RBIs. He batted .204 with 23 homers and 54 RBIs last year
Sánchez led the AL in passed balls in three of the last five seasons. He had eight last season, when pitchers threw 60 wild pitches with Sánchez behind the plate, a career high.
He is eligible for free agency after this season.
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Beside Sanchez, Ryan Jeffers is the lone remaining option at catcher for the Twins.
Urshela, 30, is a smooth fielder who hit 267 with 18 doubles, 14 homers and 49 RBIs last season. He is signed to a $6.55 million, one-year deal.
After trading their largest contract, the Twins could be setting themselves up to make a run at another high-profile, high-dollar player. They have a big hole at shortstop again, assuming Urshela will slide in at third base, and can certainly use more starting pitching.