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This offseason, after dealing Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers, Minnesota flipped Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt to the New York Yankees for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. They filled two starting lineup spots with the trade, but there’s yet to be production from either player.

 

In 2019 and 2020 the former Guardians veteran became one of baseball’s best at the hot corner. Gio Urshela posted a .310/.359/.523 slash line and hit 27 homers across 175 games. The Yankees made him a fixture in their lineup and he was seen as a key contributor after taking the position from Miguel Andujar.

Urshela went through it for the first time since his breakout last year. After posting a 134 OPS+ in 2019 and 2020, he contributed a below league-average 95 OPS+. Given his dealings with Covid multiple times, as well as suffering injury, it was explainable why the production had dipped. The hope for Minnesota was undoubtedly that a change of scenery and clean bill of health would result in rebounding to where he was at his peak.

Now 30-years-old, Urshela is 27 games into his Twins career and the 83 OPS+ is a bottoming out of sorts. He hasn’t dropped to the irrelevance of his time in Cleveland, but at a time when offense is down across the board, he’s finding ways to contribute even less. Urshela is not a hulking slugger by any means, but across nearly 100 plate appearances he has just three extra-base hits and only one homer.

If there’s a silver lining for Urshela, it’s that we may just be dealing with a small sample. His expected batting average is 30 points higher at .263 and his xwOBA sits near the 2019 mark at .338. He’s at his career average when it comes to hard-hit rate, and Urshela still has a good process at the plate posting just a 12/9 K/BB. Rocco Baldelli is certainly hoping his third basemen figures it out, otherwise, that could be an avenue for someone like Royce Lewis or Luis Arraez to steal playing time.

Behind the dish was never going to be a calling card for Gary Sanchez, regardless of a new change in scenery. He’s a rough backstop, but his bat used to carry him. Coincidentally, Sanchez’s 83 OPS+ is the exact same mark as his trade partner, Urshela. 

There was a time the Dominican native was competing for Rookie of the Year awards and picking up All-Star game selections. 2019 and his .841 OPS seem like a distant memory at this point, however. The last two seasons in New York equated to a 90 OPS+ for Sanchez, and he’s now dipped well below. Across 80 plate appearances, Sanchez owns a .203/.263/.338 slash line. He is a power producer but has homered only once while tacking on seven doubles.

Unlike Urshela, Sanchez’s expected batting average is actually worse than what he’s generated and although the xwOBA is better, it’s insignificant with just an eight-point swing. Sanchez is still hitting with a similar hard-hit rate to when he was at his best in 2019, but he’s bumped the fly all rate up to 53% and halved a very solid 20% line drive rate from that season. Getting too far under the baseball, and being bit by a ball that’s deadened, Sanchez has just a 3.6% HR/FB ratio after seeing a whopping 26.4% ratio in 2019. Although he’s making the most contact of his career, pitchers are also forcing him to chase at a career-worst rate.

For Sanchez the bat has to play for there to be any value. He’s been worth -0.3 fWAR because it hasn’t and his time behind the dish will always be flawed. Minnesota doesn’t have other options at catcher and that makes the leash extremely long here. Still, getting him anything more than rotational at-bats becomes unnecessary if this is the production Baldelli can expect.

It was a fine move to swap out Josh Donaldson. His place in the clubhouse may not have been ideal, and the move freed up the opportunity to sign Carlos Correa. That said, the Twins can’t afford to have a lineup with two players producing so little offensively. New York has bit Minnesota plenty over the years, and right now it’s happening from within.

How long are you willing to wait and find out if these two find it?

 


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What other options do we have for catcher?  I did not like the trade and your headline says it all - the Yankees beat us again.

I suspect these are one year players, but if Miranda and Kiriloff can get their bats going they can take first and third, Arreaz can DH and they are fine as bench players.

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HELP WANTED: Catcher with positive attitude, and skills at pitch framing, catching the ball, blocking throws in the dirt, hustle, good people skills, no past concussions and a strong throwing arm. Must be able to hit to the opposite field and bunt. Contact Derek Falvey or Thad Levine at BR-549.

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Talk to the Yankees' fans, they don't like the trade either.  Would you want Donaldson in the lineup at this point?

The Yankees were the only team willing to eat JD's contract, allowing us to get Correa.

Urshela is a gamer, and a solid defender.  Sanchez is a back-up catcher who can hit when he's hot.

And, to be fair, I haven't checked, but it sure seems like offense is down across the board this year.

All that said, you would have to go back pretty far to find the Twins so completely out-played in a series at home.  Tampa Bay used to do that here about five years ago;  it sure brings out the defeatism in our estimation of the Twins.

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With this dead ball, the 1/2 of the league players that subscribed to elevate and celebrate are really struggling.  

 

I think Both Urshela and Sanchez are safe for the season.  We have literally no other options at Catcher and not much in the pipe line, which is scary.  I think Urshela will come around a bit and has been decent in the field, with all the injuries and 40 man roster crunches i dont see him moving on.

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Yes, Ted, the performances thus far have been less than stellar.  I think it is fair to point out that Donaldson is not setting the world on fire in NY either, and this trade was really about both the Twins and Yankees unloading players--Donaldson and Sanchez--that they wanted off the rosters.  The other players were included simply to balance things out.  This was an addition by subtraction for the Twins.  And, Sanchez won't be back next year, and absent a turnaround, Urshela will not be either.  

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Mitch Garver  .205/.295/.346, 92 OPS+, 3 HR.  Gary Sanchez  .195/.271/.325, 81 OPS+, 1 HR.

Josh Donaldson .224/.345/.378, 118 OPS+, 3HR.  Gio Urshela .222/.284/.278, 73 OPS+, 1 HR.

IKF .256/.303/.322, 89 OPS+, 0 HR.  Carlos Correa .255/.320/.372, OPS+, 2 HR.

Rortvedt has not played in the majors yet.

Everyone knew Urshela and Sanchez were down grades from Garver and Donaldson.  Everyone knew Correa was an upgrade from IKF.  It seems to me this has actually played out how most people predicted.

 

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I would be all for DFA Urshella and roll with Lewis at 3B.  Miranda is not lighting it up early, but Lewis has looked like he can handle hitting at this level, at least better than Urshella has.  I think he would field it better than either as well.  

Sanchez should not be getting so much DH time.  I feel he has been hurt by the dead ball or early weather power outage as he has hit a few balls that looked like they would go out only to die at warning track.  He has had some liners for outs as well.  However, he also chases way too much and pops up way too much.  I am fine with him catching, he is not as bad as I thought he would be.  I hope was weather warms up and the ball may start carrying more he will get a few more HR. 

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1 hour ago, cheeseheadgophfan said:

To the naked eye, it appears Sanchez has been at least average behind the plate. He's now back-up catcher with occasional power.  Dumping Donaldson (and his contract).....he's hitting .224 with 3 homeruns in that lineup? Good riddance.

Exactly. The real measuring stick for this trade is Donaldson and frankly he looks done - maybe he'll hit 23 HRs and bat .240 this year. Certainly wasn't worth half of what he was being paid.

Sanchez is a backup catcher at this point in his career and ideally the Twins roll him out there once or twice a week. As others have said he shouldn't be DH'ing and hopefully the Twins will end that experiment pronto once they get some bats back. As for Urshela, I think the guy should be considered the 26th man on this team and his bat should only see the light of day once a week at most. He's been a huge disappointment.

Whether they perform or not though, the trade seems to be worth it. The Twins escaped from that albatross of a contract they gave Donaldson and that should be applauded.

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I'd still rather have Sanchez and Urshela this year with no 2023 committments than Donaldson this year and next at $21 million annual.

I think the Twins won this deal even if both Gio and Gary make sub-par contributions.

I still feel the sting that they had to give up Garver to make this happen, but you should expect to pay a penalty like that almost every time you make a big free agent signing. Be careful what you wish for. 

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23 minutes ago, nicholas Anderson said:

Mitch Garver  .205/.295/.346, 92 OPS+, 3 HR.  Gary Sanchez  .195/.271/.325, 81 OPS+, 1 HR.

Josh Donaldson .224/.345/.378, 118 OPS+, 3HR.  Gio Urshela .222/.284/.278, 73 OPS+, 1 HR.

IKF .256/.303/.322, 89 OPS+, 0 HR.  Carlos Correa .255/.320/.372, OPS+, 2 HR.

Rortvedt has not played in the majors yet.

Everyone knew Urshela and Sanchez were down grades from Garver and Donaldson.  Everyone knew Correa was an upgrade from IKF.  It seems to me this has actually played out how most people predicted.

 

And the final piece missing: Ryan Jeffers .192/.272/.370, 94 OPS+, 3 HR. (Also .6 WAR vs. .1 WAR by Garver in 5 less at bats.)  I'd argue that was the biggest question mark from the deal.  Could Jeffers prove to be the best catcher of the 3?

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Urshala can play a pretty good 3B on the D side though I would be all in on moving Lewis over there when Correa comes back at least on a trial basis. If Miranda starts hitting then we have a pretty good rotational possibility. I am so tired of seeing Sanchez as our DH. He is alot like Sano with less power and more contact. Unfortunately that contact at this point has meant a bunch of pop ups and fly outs. Use him as a backup catcher until there is another catcher available through promotion or trade.

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2 minutes ago, USAFChief said:

Josh Donaldson has a 118 OPS+ so far in 2022.

Reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. 

I didn't say Donaldson was a horrible player. But I do think he's running out of gas. The Twins paid for a guy who was going to average 36 HRs and 100 RBI over the course of four years. Alas, Covid hit at the worst possible time and all of those plans went awry.  He might not be done as a major leaguer, but I think jettisoning themselves of Donaldson was a good move.

I think losing IKF in the deal hurt this team the most, frankly.

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I think you have to look at these trades in 2022 terms and then 2023 and beyond. The net for 2022 is we lost Donaldson and Garver.  Many insisted this would be a big downgrade but neither player is playing much above replacement level so they certainly were not going to do much to elevate our chances of making the playoffs.  Yes, Donaldson has a wRC+ of 118.  However his OPS is 722.  We would be just as well off with Arraez at 3B.  Correa  on the other hand was a very big upgrade.  Yes he had a slow start but he was hitting great before he got hit by the pitch that put him on the IL.

Looking beyond 2022, Sanchez is a free agent and Urshela will be non-tendered if he has no trade value.  They are gone.  So the net change is one more year of Garver and one additional year of Donaldson at age 37 for $21M and an 8M buyout in 2024.

As I have said from the start, I like the odds of Miranda being better than Donaldson in 2023 straight up given Donaldson will be 37.  However, the real comparison is $21M and Miranda vs Donaldson.  That’s an absolute no brainer.  Of course, we also would have had Garver in 2023 so I guess you could say we traded a year of Garver for Henriguez.  That may be a great deal or a bad deal.  We will have to make that determination down the road.  We also gain $8M in payroll for 2024.  As of today, these trades look to be a slight net gain in 2022 and great in terms of 2023 and beyond.   
 

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The problem I have is the same one I have had with their usage of Kepler and Sano the last couple years. Quit hitting Sanchez 3rd! I know the lineup is hurting right now, but he's done absolutely nothing to deserve hitting in front of Polanco. If Sanchez is used as the backup catcher he's absolutely fine. Again, the lineup is hurting right now so it's not totally possible, but if/when the lineup is at full strength he's a more than serviceable option as the #2 catcher. Urshella is finally starting to drop in the lineup which makes sense. He's the best defensive 3B on the team so it's certainly reasonable that he sees playing time there. His ABs look wildly different from day to day. It's really weird. But I don't think it's the end of the world having him at 3B and we can hope he heats up a little in the power department as the season goes on.

I don't get the suggestion of DFAing either one. We're watching a lineup of young guys struggle at the major league level and we're suggesting cutting the veterans on the team when they're in first place? Bold strategy. Not to mention the injuries we've already seen are the exact reason you don't just start DFAing guys who have been above average major leaguers. Why would reducing depth be a good strategy? If Miranda clicks and starts hitting great by July maybe you talk about it then, but to this point in his career he's had 1 insane outlier season with video game numbers and then a bunch of "meh" years. I believe in him and think he'll be very good, but cutting somebody to make room for him when he's been nothing special in AAA or MLB this year doesn't make much sense to me. Arraez and Lewis are the other likely options, but Arraez misses time every year, and while I'm the biggest of Lewis supporters I'm never cutting a guy in May to make room for a guy coming off 2 missed years. Move Urshella to the bench, sure, but don't cut him.

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Same as it ever was, same as it ever was ....

If the Twins are so constrained with their payroll each year that $130-150 million budgets in an odd year or two are unrealistic, the organization will need to win with rookies and players in their first 3-5 years of MLB. That usually results in looking for magic. I hope they find it but building to win in the vague future will get repetitive. Instead of complaining about individual moves, I want to see the Twins become a very athletic team. Plodding defensive players should be reserved for DH and occasional 1B playing time. Correa, Buxton, Polanco, Kepler, Celestino, Gordon, and Lewis qualify at this time. Larnach, Kirilloff, and Miranda could be exemptions and claim a position if they hit at least .280 with power. The Astros have demonstrated a model for winning with their swing hard first and then adjust for contact approach at the plate, run the bases aggressively, and catch the ball to support a pitching staff built largely from within throwing strikes to a very superior defensive catcher.

I'm still thinking that a few Twins could move forward this summer and help them be competitive against good teams. We will find out in June and July.

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2 hours ago, Old Twins Cap said:

Talk to the Yankees' fans, they don't like the trade either.  Would you want Donaldson in the lineup at this point?

The Yankees were the only team willing to eat JD's contract, allowing us to get Correa.

Urshela is a gamer, and a solid defender.  Sanchez is a back-up catcher who can hit when he's hot.

And, to be fair, I haven't checked, but it sure seems like offense is down across the board this year.

All that said, you would have to go back pretty far to find the Twins so completely out-played in a series at home.  Tampa Bay used to do that here about five years ago;  it sure brings out the defeatism in our estimation of the Twins.

Yes batting is down all over the league,   " batting average to its lowest level (.233) in history and runs scored to its second-lowest total (4.08 per team game) in 41 years."

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Do the Twins really think they can be contenders this year? The Dodgers and Astros have pretty much shown where they stand in that department. I too am getting tired of seeing Sanchez get an over-abundance of at bats in the DH role when there are other options. I'm fine with him catching every 3rd or 4th game but that's all he deserves at this point. Gordon, Arraez, and Celestino have been much more productive when given the chance to play yet Baldelli seems to find reasons to limit their playing time. With Lewis. Miranda and Arraez all able to play 3rd base, and I wouldn't count Gordon unable to play there either, they should be getting more playing time in the field also.  I am all in favor of a total youth movement for this season. Why not give these youngsters the benefit if playing more in a season that will likely die in the playoffs anyway, if they get there, to the likes of the Astros and Yankees, so we know what we have for 2023 and beyond. I know no one wants to throw a season away in May or June but we have seen what this team can do against the power teams and that has been little to nothing. Let's give the young kids a chance to prove themselves instead of wasting another season playing guys that continually struggle or under-perform like Sanchez, Urshela, Sano, Kepler.

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1 hour ago, PopRiveter said:

I'd still rather have Sanchez and Urshela this year with no 2023 committments than Donaldson this year and next at $21 million annual.

I think the Twins won this deal even if both Gio and Gary make sub-par contributions.

I still feel the sting that they had to give up Garver to make this happen, but you should expect to pay a penalty like that almost every time you make a big free agent signing. Be careful what you wish for. 

Right. If Garver was hitting like Johnny Bench it would make it feel worse. But like all the Rangers hitters, he is struggling big-time. 

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2 hours ago, Trov said:

I would be all for DFA Urshella and roll with Lewis at 3B.  Miranda is not lighting it up early, but Lewis has looked like he can handle hitting at this level, at least better than Urshella has.  I think he would field it better than either as well.  

Sanchez should not be getting so much DH time.  I feel he has been hurt by the dead ball or early weather power outage as he has hit a few balls that looked like they would go out only to die at warning track.  He has had some liners for outs as well.  However, he also chases way too much and pops up way too much.  I am fine with him catching, he is not as bad as I thought he would be.  I hope was weather warms up and the ball may start carrying more he will get a few more HR. 

I think one of the reasons Sanchez was expendable as far as the Yankees were concerned is that he doesn't fit the Yankee mold of patience results in power. He's always been a free swinger.

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2 hours ago, Trov said:

Sanchez should not be getting so much DH time.

I agree with this. His bat is decent for a catcher but they need to find better hitters to use the DH at-bats. 13 of 32 games the second catcher has been the DH. That's a problem if they can't find a 4th outfielder who can out-hit their catchers.

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Wow. The Twins are in first place even though battered by injuries (it feels like half the roster was playing for the Saints 3 weeks ago). And the villagers are out with torch and pitchfork demanding we dump most of our remaining vets.

Is it disheartening that we were soundly thumped by the Astros? Yep. But all it really shows is our B squad isn't good enough to advance in the playoffs. Though it might be good enough to compete in our division, which gives us a chance to hang in there until the A team is back.

Reality check: Urshela is our best defensive 3B by far with some amazing plays already on the year's highlight reel, and the article makes zero mention of that. Move him down the order until he hits, rotate him with others, but he can win us games with his glove alone (a big defensive upgrade over an aging, gimpy Donaldson). Sanchez is a decent backup catcher, with a far better bat than most backups (including Rortvedt), but admittedly weaker defense.

I would agree with most that he should rarely DH, except many of the young batters who could help there have been worse than Sanchez. If the Twins get back the Larnach mashing before his injury, or Miranda has the MLB lamp go on, and/or Arraez can stay healthy, I think it is far more likely you see less of Sanchez in the DH slot (unless he starts hitting better).

Reality check 2: Kirilloff is a mirage until he starts hitting, and with some pop. He hasn't been an MLB player since hurting his wrist last year, he says his wrist still bothers him, and if he doesn't figure it out soon, he'd be one of the first I'd send back to St Paul as people come off the IL. He probably needs lots of at-bats (or physical therapy) to figure it out, but I don't really want to see him getting them in a Twins uniform.

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4 hours ago, Old Twins Cap said:

Talk to the Yankees' fans, they don't like the trade either.  Would you want Donaldson in the lineup at this point?

The Yankees were the only team willing to eat JD's contract, allowing us to get Correa.

Urshela is a gamer, and a solid defender.  Sanchez is a back-up catcher who can hit when he's hot.

And, to be fair, I haven't checked, but it sure seems like offense is down across the board this year.

All that said, you would have to go back pretty far to find the Twins so completely out-played in a series at home.  Tampa Bay used to do that here about five years ago;  it sure brings out the defeatism in our estimation of the Twins.

At this point you probably might want Donaldson. After a sluggish 3 weeks to start the season he has been slugging at an OPS of about .800

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Urshela is also hitting .308/.357/.436 against LHP. You don't throw that away, you try to platoon him with Arraez (hitting .191/.227/.191 v LHP) more often. An Arraez/Urshela platoon at 3B is all-star caliber production.

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