The Twins' first major offseason domino fell on Monday and Jorge Polanco, the team's longest-tenured player, was traded to the Seattle Mariners in a five-player deal.
The Twins received two of their club's big-league right fielders, starter Anthony DeSclafani and reliever Justin Topa, and two minor leaguers, outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez and pitcher Darren Bowen, in exchange for Polanco, a switch-hitting second baseman who has been a regular part of the Twins since 2016. The Mariners will also send money to the Twins, the teams announced.
“Adding a starter, adding a reliever and a couple of prospects we really like was just a deal we couldn't pass up,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.
The Twins picked up a $10.5 million club option on Polanco's contract in November, but he was one of the club's primary trade candidates because of their outfield depth. Polanco spent time at third base and designated hitter to accommodate Edouard Julien in the second half of last season. Brooks Lee, the organization's top prospect, reached Class AAA last year.
Polanco, a 2019 All-Star, was an above-average hitter throughout his 10 seasons with the Twins. Polanco was limited to 80 games last season due to a hamstring strain, and hit .255 with 14 homers and 48 RBI.
He signed with the Twins one day after his 16th birthday in 2009. Everything he has done since has become an integral part of the organization. He made his MLB debut at age 20, his youngest since Joe Mauer. He arrived at the tournament on April 5, 2019, and received MVP votes in the Bomba squad that season.
“When I talked to… [Polanco] “Listen, in many ways you'll always be a twin and you'll never know how this world of baseball comes back,” I said earlier. “This was a difficult decision, not only from a baseball perspective for how we value him as a player, but even more so for his character as a human being.”
There was an 80-game suspension for use of a performance-enhancing substance in 2018, but Polanco turned that into a career footnote. He had 33 homers and 98 RBI in 2021, franchise records for a switch-hitter, as well as five walk-off plate appearances.
Mariners general manager Justin Holland said their front office identified Polanco as a “perfect fit” for their roster at the start of the season. Trade talks began last weekend after the Twins insisted on receiving major league offers.
“There has been a lot of interest in polo, perhaps more than meets expectations for a large part of the holiday period,” Falvey said. “I've been very consistent about our view on that, which is that we're trying to find a way to add to the 24 and also keep an eye on the future.”
The 33-year-old DeSclafani will compete for a spot in the Twins' starting rotation. If all of the starters stay healthy throughout the spring, that could push Louie Farland down to Class AAA to start the season or into the bullpen.
In the final year of a three-year, $36 million contract, DeSclafani missed the final two months of last season with a right elbow flexor strain. He finished 4-8 with a 4.88 ERA in 18 starts for the San Francisco Giants, totaling 79 strikeouts and 20 walks in 99⅔ innings.
“He was talking about how good he felt, how excited he was to get to spring training and put himself back on the map where he should be the starter,” Falvey said. “We like this guy's stuff. We think he has the ability to play anywhere in our rotation.”
Topa, a 32-year-old infielder, had his best year in the majors last season, pitching to a 2.61 ERA in 69 innings of relief for the Mariners with 61 strikeouts, 18 walks and just four homers. He recorded three saves, primarily in the seventh and eighth innings.
“We feel he has an opportunity to dribble with players who are moving towards the back end of the game in the hope of getting the ball to them. [Jhoan] turnover,” Falvey said.
Gonzalez, a 20-year-old outfielder who reached Class A-Advanced last year, is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the Mariners organization by Baseball America. Falvey said the Twins hope he can be part of the Twins' next wave of players along with top-100 prospects Walker Jenkins and Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Bowen, a 13th-round pick in 2022, had a 3.88 ERA in Class A last season and was ranked as the Mariners' No. 25 prospect.
Falvey said the money the Twins received in the deal gives them more flexibility for free agency as they look to add a hitter.
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