Over the weekend, Josh Donaldson was involved in an altercation with Chicago's Tim Anderson. Donaldson allegedly called Anderson "Jackie," a reference to Jackie Robinson, that he thought was an inside joke between the two players. Major League Baseball investigated the incident, which involves multiple layers, and suspended Donaldson for one game. During his Twins tenure, Donaldson made headlines for multiple incidents, including calling out Gerrit Cole for his use of sticky substances and an ejection after hitting a home run.
Originally, the Twins signed Donaldson as a veteran presence on a team in the middle of their winning window. Across two seasons, he hit .243/.355/.474 (.829) with a 129 OPS+ in 163 games. During the playoffs following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Donaldson wasn't available, and the Twins were terrible in 2021. He was entering his age-36 season, and the front office found a way to get out from under his contract.
On March 13, the Twins finalized a deal that sent Donaldson to the Yankees along with Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt. In return, Minnesota received Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela. All five players projected to be in each team's plans for the entire 2022 season, but baseball doesn't always work out that way.
Yankees Acquisitions: Donaldson (1.6 WAR), Kiner-Falefa (0.3 WAR), Rortvedt (60-day IL)
When making a trade, teams usually don't like to surrender the best player involved in the deal. Minnesota clearly did that as Donaldson is having a tremendous season as the Yankees sit five games up in the AL East. Age doesn't seem to be catching up to Donaldson, as he has a 126 OPS+ for the fourth consecutive season. Defensively, he is also having a resurgence as he ranks in the 81st percentile for Outs Above Average (OAA). Even with this kind of production, Donaldson has other baggage that some teams want to avoid. It remains to be seen if he can keep up this production through a 162-game schedule.
Kiner-Falefa never appeared in a game for the Twins after being acquired from the Rangers as part of the Mitch Garver trade. So far this season, he has hit .264/.317/.312 (.629) with an 88 OPS+, which is seven points higher than his career mark. His Whiff% is in the 95th percentile, and his OAA (6th percentile) is one of the lowest marks among shortstops. Rortvedt underwent arthroscopic left knee surgery and may not be available until after the All-Star break.
Twins Acquisitions: Sánchez (0.4 WAR), Urshela (0.1 WAR)
A couple of weeks ago, Ted examined Minnesota's acquisitions from the Donaldson trade. Both players had yet to make a significant mark on the team, but those results may slowly change in the Twins' favor. Sánchez has surprised in multiple ways as he has an OPS+ of over 110 for the first time since he was an All-Star in 2019. He has also improved his framing metrics as he ranks in the 64th percentile, his highest mark since 2018. According to Win Probability Added, Sánchez ranks fourth on the Twins hitters behind Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Luis Arraez.
In 2019 and 2020, Urshela hit .310/.359/.523 (.881) with a 134 OPS+, and that's the player the Twins were hoping to unlock. So far in 2022, he has been closer to the 2021 version of Urshela that posted a 96 OPS+ in 116 games. His K% is in the 91st percentile, and he provides little defensive value with an OAA in the 11th percentile. Over his last 100 plate appearances, his xwOBA has been above the league average, so there may still be hope for him breaking out of his offensive slump.
At the end of the day, it's clear the Twins wanted to be "out of the Josh Donaldson business." His on-the-field performance outweighs the value the Twins got in return, but his other antics can rub a clubhouse the wrong way. Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa provide a different kind of leadership for the Twins, and Minnesota is better off with him off the roster.
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