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MLB Roundup 3/14: The Twins and Yankees make a deal

And a 2021 Red Sox pitcher finds a new team.

Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds
Sonny Gray, who was traded to the Twins on Sunday
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Yankees trade Gary Sánchez in trade with Twins

Sunday was mostly quiet, but then right as we were closing in on the end of the night, things got crazy, most notably with this trade between the Yankees and the Twins. In the five-player deal, the Yankees are sending Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela to the Twins, with New York receiving Isiah Kiner-Falefa — who was just traded from Texas to Minnesota on Friday! — Josh Donaldson, and Ben Rortvedt.

So we’ll start with the Yankees side, who get Kiner-Falefa to play shortstop after all. Considering most Yankees fans were pining for Carlos Correa, that part of it has to be a let down. On the other hand, Donaldson is still a phenomenal hitter. He finished last season hitting .247/.352/.475 for a 124 wRC+, putting him 24 percent better than league-average. That said, he’s entering his age-36 season, and that’s a big deal considering the Yankees recent history in keeping its players healthy. He’s certainly an upgrade over Urshela, but also much more expensive with the Yankees taking on all $50 million he was owed. They also now have a big hole behind the plate. Sánchez was polarizing in New York, but they better have another plan behind the plate because right now they would seem to have one of the least productive catcher groups in the game.

On the other side, I just have no idea what the Twins are doing, though I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they have a plan. Just a couple of days ago they traded a power hitting catcher in Mitch Garver for Kiner-Falefa for a prospect. So in essence they traded Garver and Donaldson for Sánchez, Urshela, and a solid pitching prospect. That seems like a wash to me, and one has to wonder if they may now use the money they saved by shipping out Donaldson’s contract for someone like Trevor Story. If not, I’m not at all sure what they’re doing.

Why Red Sox fans should care: At least for right now, I don’t know how you argue that the Yankees are not a worse baseball team. Sánchez’s defense could have been better, yes, but it’s hard to find offense behind the plate and he’s an above-average bat for a catcher. Kiner-Falefa’s defense may be good at shortstop — the metrics varied wildly in 2021 — but he doesn’t provide much of anything at the plate. And Donaldson is getting to an age where injuries are always going to be a concern. Judging by what else I’m seeing it’s possible I’m just low on Kiner-Falefa, but right now I think this is a win for Boston.

New York Reaction

Minnesota Reaction

Nationals sign Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal

It kind of flew under the radar because it happened right at the same time as the trade above, but this is an impactful deal as well. The Nationals went and filled their new DH hole with the biggest name at that position on the market, signing veteran Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal worth $15 million with a mutual option for 2023. Cruz joins fellow Dominican Juan Soto to form a fearsome middle of the lineup.

Cruz started last season with the Twins before a midseason trade led him to the Rays to finish off that season, and overall he hit .265/.334/.497 for a 122 wRC+. As he enters his 40s Cruz is still one of the most feared sluggers in the league, not to mention one of the most well-respected veterans on top of that. The Nationals are coming off a rough year, but they’re also working hard to convince Soto to stick with the organization long-term. Bringing in Cruz can’t hurt that mission.

Why Red Sox fans should care: With Cruz off the board, that removes one more team who could be in the market for a DH, which is something to monitor if you think the Red Sox could either be looking to trade J.D. Martinez, sign someone like Kyle Schwarber, or both. I’m not sure how realistic it is, but it’s possible.

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Twins acquire Sonny Gray in trade with Reds

We talked in yesterday’s roundup about the Athletics fire sale that got started with the Chris Bassitt trade, but they’re not the only team that does not want to spend and thus is ready to sell off key players. The Reds belong in that group as well, and they traded one of their best pitchers to the Twins. Minnesota added to their rotation by acquiring Sonny Gray, also acquiring minor-leaguer Francis Peguero, sending back 2021 first round pick Chase Petty to the Reds.

On the Twins side, Minnesota is pretty clearly trying to get back into contention after a down year in 2021. They need a little bit of a reset, but Gray is a big boost to a rotation that was in desperate need of help. The righty may be familiar to Red Sox fans from his time with the Yankees, which didn’t always go very well, but he’s been much better in Cincinnati, or at least he was before last season. It was a bit of a down year for Gray, who was more fine than good, pitching to a 4.19 ERA with a 3.99 FIP. He’ll give Minnesota plenty of strikeouts, but he’ll need to keep the ball in the yard to be the kind of top-end arm the Twins need. Peguero is a relief project who reached High-A last season.

On the other side of the deal, the Reds got what feels like a light return, though it’s not one without upside. We mentioned that Petty was a first round selection just last summer, and he’s perhaps the riskiest profile a recent draftee can have. That is one of a power pitching righty coming out of high school. The ceiling is big if he can keep his secondaries sharp with consistent command, but there’s a lot of development needed. We’ll need a few years to really see how this is going to work for the Reds.

Why Red Sox fans should care: The Red Sox may not be in on starting pitching right now. It’s not entirely clear, but it doesn’t seem like it. Even so, this is the kind of package that a lot of teams should have beaten, and I think there’s a good argument the Red Sox are among them. I’m a little nervous about Gray in the AL East so I’m not overly upset, but I think this is a good deal for the Twins, and I would have guessed he’d go for more.

Minnesota Reaction

Cincinnati Reaction

Mets sign Adam Ottavino to a one-year deal

The Red Sox bullpen was not always one that could be trusted outside of Garrett Whitlock towards the end of last season, and Adam Ottavino was part of that inconsistent mix in the late innings. The righty never quite pitched poorly enough in 2021 to lose his setup role, but he also never pitched well enough to be looked at for a more advanced role. He just kind of was who he was, pitching to a 4.21 ERA with a 3.96 FIP.

Now, we know officially that he will not come back to the Red Sox. Instead, he’ll be pitching in Queens, signing a one-year deal with the Mets on Sunday worth $4 million. The righty joins a New York team who is building up and spending money this year, but whose rotation looks a lot better than the bullpen. Ottavino won’t transform that group, but he adds a solid veteran righty to pitch get some sixth and seventh inning work.

Why Red Sox fans should care: I think Ottavino was reasonably well liked by both the organization and its fans last year, but I’m also not sure many were clamoring for him to come back. I’d like to see the Red Sox add another righty who can pitch in the late innings, but Ottavino wasn’t the most exciting option on the board.

  • The Brewers brought back one of their key relievers on Sunday, signing Brad Boxberger to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. This feels like a really team-friendly deal to me. Who knows if the Red Sox could have gotten in on this price, but if they could have it would’ve been a smart move in my mind.
  • The Yankees sign Tim Locastro to a one-year deal. Locastro is a Red Sox legend who was claimed off waivers from the Yankees in November only to be non-tendered and eventually sign back with New York.
  • The Cardinals signed Nick Wittgren to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million. This is an interesting deal, but not one I’m sure I’d waste a 40-man spot on in the Red Sox position. Wittgren is a solid bounce back candidate, especially at this price, but his peripherals have been trending down for a few years before the results caught up last season.
  • The Dodgers signed Hanser Alberto to a one-year deal. Alberto might be familiar to some from his times with the Orioles, but he’s a really interesting player who almost never walks, almost never strikes out, hits for low power, and produces against lefties. I’m really interested to see how the Dodgers are going to try and deploy him.