7:14pm: Minor league pitcher Darren Bowen is the final player involved, reports Kiley McDaniel of ESPN (on X). There’s also an unreported amount of cash changing hands. Seattle is sending some cash to cover part of the DeSclafani contract, Rosenthal tweets.
7:07pm: Reliever Justin Topa is among the players headed to Minnesota, reports Robert Murray of FanSided (on X). Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reports that the Twins are acquiring four players — two of whom are at the MLB level.
6:59pm: There’s an agreement in place, tweets Jeff Passan of ESPN.
Seattle and Minnesota have long seemed an on-paper fit for this kind of move. The M’s didn’t get much out of their second basemen last season. Opening Day starter Kolten Wong was released midway through the year. Landing Josh Rojas in the deadline deal that sent closer Paul Sewald to the D-Backs helped to an extent, but the position still seemed a weakness entering the offseason.
The M’s further thinned the infield with a trade sending third baseman Eugenio Suárez to Arizona. Seattle brought in non-tender candidate Luis Urías in a deal with the Red Sox to add a contact-oriented hitter to the mix. While Rojas and Urías could split time between second and third base, it’d have been risky to count on both players as regulars.
As a result, Seattle lands one of the top offensive middle infielders on the trade market. The switch-hitting Polanco has posted above-average numbers at the plate in four of the past five seasons. Since the start of the 2019 campaign, he owns a .267/.337/.458 slash in nearly 2400 plate appearances. Knee and hamstring issues bothered him early last season, but he hit at a typically solid level when healthy. Polanco connected on 14 homers over 80 games, running a .255/.335/.454 line through 343 trips to the dish.
That steady production made it an easy call for the Twins to exercise a $10.5MM option on his contract. That’s a below-market price for a quality regular. Yet even with Minnesota triggering the option, there was a general belief that he could find himself on the move this offseason. The Twins have an enviable collection of infield talent that already threatened to bump the 30-year-old Polanco from his natural position.
While Polanco was on the injured list, 24-year-old Edouard Julien mashed his way to the second base job. He hit .263/.381/.459 as a rookie to secure a spot atop Rocco Baldelli’s lineup. The Twins gave Polanco 103 innings at third base once he returned, his first action at the hot corner since 2016. With former first overall pick Royce Lewis emerging as a star down the stretch and into the postseason, that wouldn’t have been an avenue to regular playing time moving forward.
Minnesota could have used Polanco at second base while deploying Julien at designated hitter. That would have limited their flexibility to cycle other players through the DH spot while potentially pigeon-holing one of Minnesota’s more talented young hitters to a bat-only role. Polanco had some experience at shortstop early in his career, but he moved off the position because of defensive shortcomings and clearly wasn’t going to start over Carlos Correa. Minnesota also tendered arbitration contracts to utility infielders Kyle Farmer and Nick Gordon. José Miranda remains on hand as an option at the corners, while former #8 overall pick Brooks Lee could make his MLB debut in 2024.
It surely wasn’t an easy call for the front office to move on from one of their longest-tenured players. Polanco had been in the organization since signing as a 16-year-old back in 2009. He reached the big leagues before his 21st birthday and established himself as a regular by 2016. Polanco earned an All-Star nod and down-ballot MVP votes in 2019 and played a key role on four playoff teams for the organization.
The amount of infield depth nevertheless made an offseason trade a distinct possibility. Minnesota’s pitching staff took a hit with free agent departures of Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle. The Twins had done very little to balance the roster to this point in the offseason, citing payroll constraints related to their expiring local broadcasting contract. Minnesota was clearly willing to field offers on their infield surplus, although president of baseball operations Derek Falvey made clear they’d seek MLB help as part of that return.
Seattle was willing to part with both a pair of big league arms and at least one of their top minor league talents to get the deal done. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that the M’s plan to use Polanco as their primary second baseman. That could leave the lefty-hitting Rojas and the right-handed hitting Urías to share time at third base. The M’s could keep Polanco at the keystone for two years. They’ll take on this year’s $10.5MM salary and hold a $12.5MM option for 2025 that comes with a $750K buyout. If Polanco performs at the level the Mariners envision, they’d likely exercise that provision.
More to come.