The Minnesota Twins made their first major move of the offseason on Monday night, trading second baseman Jorge Polanco to the Seattle Mariners, league sources tell The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
In making a deal that was expected all offseason because of the Twins’ infield depth, the team sent its longest-tenured player to the Pacific Northwest in exchange for four players, including right-handers Justin Topa and Anthony DeSclafani, outfield prospect Gabriel Gonzalez and pitching prospect Darren Bowen, per a team source.
Polanco, who debuted for the Twins in 2014 and primarily plays second base but was an All-Star at shortstop in 2019, batted .255/.335/.454 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs in 80 games last season. A switch-hitter and a solid defender at second base, Polanco provides Seattle with an offensive-minded infielder the team desperately needs.
The Twins have always been high on Polanco, who converted to second from shortstop after the 2020 season. Yet with the team looking to trim payroll, Edouard Julien looking like a star, top prospect Brooks Lee close to ready and other needs to fill, the expectation has been the Twins would attempt to trade Polanco, who is earning $10.5 million this season and has a $12 million player option for 2025.
Though the Mariners possessed several options at second including Dylan Moore, Jose Rojas and Sam Haggerty, Polanco provides a much better bat — he has a career 111 OPS-plus — and switch-hitting versatility.
The Twins made it clear in November they expected a reduction in payroll — possibly up to $30 million — after spending a club-record $154 million in 2023.
The Twins allowed veteran starting pitchers Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda to depart via free agency earlier this offseason and didn’t re-sign slugger Joey Gallo, either. Those exits along with others already reduced the Twins’ estimated 2024 payroll to roughly $125 million for the upcoming season before they traded Polanco.
With a glut of talented infielders, including Julien, Lee, Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, Kyle Farmer, Jose Miranda, Alex Kirilloff — as well as utility men Willi Castro, Nick Gordon and Austin Martin — the Twins had been looking to trade Polanco since the end of last season.
Arriving full-time in 2017, Polanco immediately made himself into invaluable bat and a matchup nightmare near the top of the lineup. He batted third 32 times down the stretch for a 2017 club that earned a shocking Wild Card berth and bounced back after serving an 80-game suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2018.
Polanco had a breakout campaign in 2019, batting .295/.356/.485 with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs for a Twins’ “Bomba Squad” that set the all-time single-season home run record with 307 round-trippers. Polanco followed his 2019 showing with even more power in 2021, belting a career-high 33 home runs and driving in 98 runs.
But over the past few seasons, Polanco’s health slowed down. After dealing with ankle injuries in 2019 and 2020, Polanco suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss the final 37 games of the 2022 season and lingered into the 2023 campaign. Despite rehabbing all offseason, Polanco started the 2023 season on the injured list as he suffered a setback late in spring training.
Though he got the knee healthy and debuted on April 21, Polanco would later be slowed by a pair of hamstring injuries. He went on the IL in May and June, missing a combined 53 games and didn’t return until July 28.
Upon returning, Polanco finally stayed on the field and hit the rest of the way. Polanco played in 50 of his team’s last 57 games, producing an .817 OPS. The Twins were 30-20 in those games.
The move provides the Twins with some financial flexibility to attack other needs.
Even with Chris Paddack expected to return to the rotation, the Twins need another starting pitcher and could use help in the outfield as depth in case Byron Buxton’s knee doesn’t hold up. The team has considered trades for Polanco, Farmer and Max Kepler all winter, hoping to exchange major-league needs for needs.
(Top photo: Jorge Polanco: Ron Schwane / Getty Images)