TAMPA -- Isiah Kiner-Falefa thought he had found a new home with the Minnesota Twins. Less than 24 hours later, he was traded to the New York Yankees alongside former American League MVP Josh Donaldson and catcher Ben Rortvedt in exchange for catcher Gary Sanchez and infielder Gio Urshela.
Earlier in the day, Yankees manager Aaron Boone had announced Urshela as the Yankees' starting shortstop. Urshela, whose natural position is third base, had started only 41 games at shortstop in six major league seasons with Cleveland (2015, 2017), Toronto (2018) and the Yankees (2019-21).
Nonetheless, Boone hinted that he was still expecting the Yankees to make some additional moves.
"I'm sure there are still things to be done across the game, and certainly with us, that are going to change that landscape potentially along the way," Boone said Sunday morning. "I know Cash [GM Brian Cashman] and the front office right now are in overdrive and evaluating and having those conversations, whether it's free agents, through trade markets. I know they're working to find a place where it potentially improves our club."
Acquiring Kiner-Falefa answers one the Yankees' biggest offseason needs after Gleyber Torres failed to make a successful transfer from second base. The Yankees were never willing to be players when it came to the two big-money free-agent shortstops on the market, Carlos Correa and Trevor Story.
Kiner-Falefa also plays third base and won a Gold Glove at the position during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Kiner-Falefa batted .271/.312/.357 with eight home runs and 53 RBIs in his first full season as the Rangers' shortstop last year. He posted a .972 fielding percentage at the position, leading big league shortstops in total chances (669), assists (436) and double plays turned (98).
The Rangers, however, inked free-agent shortstop Corey Seager to a 10-year, $325 million deal this offseason -- an acquisition that eventually led them to trade Kiner-Falefa to the Twins on Saturday.
On a conference call with Minnesota reporters after the trade, Kiner-Falefa addressed his disappointment in getting dealt, saying Seager's acquisition "definitely hurt."
"The fact that they couldn't make a spot for me was really tough," Kiner-Falefa told reporters. "It ended up working out with them accommodating me and trading me here, and I can't be happier to be [in Minnesota]."
Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey praised Kiner-Falefa's defensive skills after the trade, describing him as "a Gold Glove-level defender." Kiner-Falefa has also played 73 career major league games at catcher, recording a .996 fielding percentage.
After the trade to New York was announced, Kiner-Falefa took to Twitter to express his enthusiasm in donning the pinstripes.
"Always wanted to be like #2!!!," he wrote, referencing Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter. "Let's go @Yankees"
In Donaldson, 36, the Yankees acquired a three-time All-Star, 2015 AL MVP and two-time AL Silver Slugger Award winner. Donaldson was also named the 2019 National League Comeback Player of the Year during his one-year stint with the Atlanta Braves.
The third baseman has a career slash line of .269/.367/.505 over 11 seasons in the big leagues, having played with Oakland (2010, '12-14), Toronto (2015-18), Cleveland (2018), Atlanta (2019) and Minnesota (2020-21). Last year, Donaldson hit .247 with 26 doubles, 26 home runs and 72 RBIs in 135 games with the Twins.
Donaldson joins the Yankees after being one of the most vocal critics ofGerrit Cole. Donaldson called out Cole's diminished spin rate after MLB started cracking down on the use of foreign substances by pitchers.
New York will pick up the remaining two years of Donaldson's contract, which is valued at around $42 million, from the Twins.
The Yankees also exchanged catchers with the Twins, flipping Sanchez for Rortvedt. Sanchez had become a liability behind the plate and lost starts to backup Kyle Higashioka, who developed into Cole's personal catcher. After a dreadful 2020 season, in which he hit .147/.253/.365, Sanchez had also been a shadow of his former self at the plate.
Rortvedt, 24, made his major league debut in 2021, batting .169/229/.281 with three home runs and seven RBIs in 39 games played. Rortvedt was a second-round (56th overall) selection in the 2016 draft and was named the best defensive catcher in the Twins minor league system by Baseball America after the 2019 season. Rortvedt also worked with current Yankees catching coach Tanner Swanson when Swanson was with Minnesota.