Second baseman Jorge Polanco, who spent 10 seasons with the Twins making him one of the longest tenured members of the club, is no longer that after he was sent to the Seattle Mariners for four players, including two proven major leaguers: Veteran pitcher Anthony DeSclafani and reliever Justin Topa.
It’s a move I can certainly live with and it’s a deal that finally brought a slow offseason to a quick end. Since the Polanco deal was announced, the Twins have also signed a power bat in Carlos Santana and there’s even encouraging news on the Twins’ TV front.
But back to the trade. In the Polanco transaction, the M’s get a good switch hitter who has hit .269 from both sides of the plate over his career, according to Baseball-Reference.com. As for the Twins, they fill a much needed spot in the rotation after losing Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda, and Topa fills the absence created by Emilio Pagan’s departure.
Topa turned in a decent 2023, finishing the season with a 2.61 ERA over 69 innings pitched. He also delivered eight strikeouts per nine innings. Less encouraging is that he served up 2.3 base on balls per nine innings, which is not exactly what you want from a reliever with the game on the line.
DeSclafani struggled the past two seasons, but had a standout 2021 for the San Francisco Giants. He finished at 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA across 167-plus innings pitched, the second most of his career. That included pitching to the tune of 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The concern here (no deal is perfect, right?) is the notion of possibly dealing in damaged goods. Both Topa and DeSclafani have not been immune to the injury bug, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
“Topa will turn 33 before Opening Day and has a lengthy injury history. He had undergone two Tommy John procedures and a flexor tendon surgery during his time in Milwaukee, a major reason he hadn’t logged extended MLB action until last year.”
“It has been a tough couple years for DeScalfani, who was limited to five starts in 2022 before undergoing season-ending ankle surgery. Injures were again an issue last year. This time, a flexor strain in his throwing elbow ended his season in late July.”
With pitching holes filled, the Twins needed a bat to replace Polanco, plus whatever the Twins lost (not much) in letting Joey Gallo go, so they signed the switch-hitting Santana. He, of course, brings a lot more power to the plate, having hit 300 career home runs, including 23 last season for the Pirates and Brewers. Santana, too, has shown a lot of patience at the plate with more than 1,200 walks for his career. He led the majors in walks in 2014 and the American League in the same category during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
I guess this also could mean the Twins are going to take a pass on keeping Donovan Solano, who I thought was huge for them last season. Solano doesn’t have the power that Santana has, but he still slashed .282/.369/.391. Keeping Solano, too, could make it very busy at first base if Alex Kirilloff, Santana and Solano are going to share time there.
Extra innings …
-The final word belongs to Polanco, who made his debut for the Twins on June 26, 2014.
In 2019, he had two, five-hit games, including hitting for the cycle in a 10-4 loss to the Phillies on April 5, 2019, a season in which the Twins would reel off more than 100 wins.
“One rose among the thorns” is how the Star Tribune put it following that loss. However, for some reason Polanco’s accomplishment was buried until the sixth graf of the story.
A month later, though, Polanco again banged out five hits in a 9-1 beatdown of the Toronto Blue Jays.
“It’s very fun to be part of this team,” Polanco told the Strib. “This is a very good team and we’re competing together and things are going good.”
Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, MLB Trade Rumors, Newspapers.com