On Monday night, the Twins agreed to a three-year contract with hated former Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez, which all but officially ended Gary Sánchez’s short tenure in Minnesota.
As everybody remembers extremely well, the New York Yankees traded Sánchez to the Twins, along with Gio Urshela, shortly after last year’s lockout in exchange for Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. At this point, it’ll go down as one of the worst deals in franchise history, unless there’s an unforeseen turnaround by both players in 2022.
In the end, this was an unnecessary dealing on the part of general manager Brian Cashman. It came down to the Yankees’ willingness to admit Sánchez was a lost talent and sunk cost, but they couldn’t possibly do that. They never do.
Instead of non-tendering Sánchez, getting his ~$8 million off the books for 2022, and keeping an extremely cost-effective and above-average player in Urshela, Cashman twisted himself into a pretzel and instead inherited a total of $60 million in commitments between Donaldson and IKF, which further restricted the team’s spending power when more attractive options were available in free agency.
And what do you know, after just one lowly year in Minnesota (89 OPS+, .659 OPS, 16 HR and 136 strikeouts in 128 games), even the Twins had enough! The Twins! That team the Yankees constantly own knew they needed to move on despite being somewhat starved for talent!
Twins signing Christian Vázquez emphasizes Yankees’ Gary Sánchez trade failure
Had the Yankees simply cut Sánchez loose a year early — which was an inevitability anyway! — instead of demanding they get some sort of value for the struggling catcher, they could’ve kept Urshela, saved money on just about all fronts, and made an impact addition in free agency.
It could’ve helped their 2023 picture, too. Instead, they’re saddled with Donaldson and IKF’s money for what looks like one more season (barring a shocking trade). If they had an additional ~$30 million to spend this offseason, maybe Justin Verlander would’ve been more realistic. Maybe we wouldn’t be waiting this long for Carlos Rodón. Maybe one of the high-profile shortstops could’ve been considered, with one of the top prospects being traded.
It’s sure cliché to say “the possibilities are endless,” but if we could go back in time and stop Cashman from acquiring an aging player who openly started a spat with Yankees star Gerrit Cole the year prior, 2022 and 2023 could’ve been completely re-written.
Nobody foresaw Donaldson completely falling off a cliff and being one of the worst offensive players (for someone of his caliber) in the sport, but to pay a $25 million AAV for someone’s age-36 and age-37 seasons — someone who’s known to be a clubhouse issue — is a certifiably insane investment. To then put a lifetime utility player in IKF as your starting shortstop just made it all even worse.
The Yankees paid for it in the end when their 2022 season came crashing down in the ALCS thanks in large part to both of those players. And they’ll still be paying for it in 2023.
How’s that for “emotional baggage”?