Twins trade Polanco to Mariners, get four players in return

The first major domino of the Twins offseason fell Monday and Jorge Polanco, the longest-tenured player on the team, was traded to the Seattle Mariners in a five-player deal.

The Twins received two righthanders for their big league club, starter Anthony DeSclafani and reliever Justin Topa, and two minor leaguers, outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez and pitcher Darren Bowen, in exchange for Polanco, the switch-hitting second baseman who has been a regular part of the Twins infield since 2016. The Mariners will also send cash to the Twins, the teams announced.

"Adding a starter, adding a reliever and two prospects we really like was just a deal we couldn't pass up," said Derek Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations.

The Twins picked up a $10.5 million club option in Polanco's contract in November, but he was one of the club's primary trade candidates because of the depth in their infield. Polanco spent time at third base and designated hitter to accommodate Edouard Julien in the second half of last season. Brooks Lee, the top infield prospect in the organization, reached Class AAA last year.

Polanco, a 2019 All-Star, was an above-average hitter throughout his 10 seasons with the Twins. Limited to 80 games last season because of a hamstring strain, Polanco hit .255 with 14 homers and 48 RBI.

He signed with the Twins one day after his 16th birthday in 2009. All he did since then was become an integral part of the organization. He made his MLB debut at 20, the youngest debut since Joe Mauer. He hit for the cycle on April 5, 2019, and earned down-ballot MVP votes that season on the Bomba Squad.

"When I talked to [Polanco] earlier, I said, 'Listen, in many ways you'll always be a Twin and you never know how this world comes back around in baseball,'" Falvey said. "This was a difficult decision, not just from a baseball perspective for how we value him as a player, but even more so for who he is as a human being."

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There was an 80-game suspension for usage 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, plus five walk-off plate appearances.

Justin Holland, the Mariners' general manager, said their front office identified Polanco as a "perfect fit" for their roster at the start of the offseason. Trade talks picked up last weekend after the Twins insisted on acquiring major league pitching.

"There was a ton of interest in Polo, probably more at the prospect level for a good chunk of the offseason," Falvey said. "I've been pretty consistent about our view of that, which is we're trying to find a way to add to '24 and also keep an eye on the future."

DeSclafani, 33, will compete for a spot in the Twins' starting rotation. If all starters remain healthy throughout the spring, it could push Louie Varland to Class AAA to begin the season or to the bullpen.

In the final year of a three-year, $36 million contract, DeSclafani missed the final two months of last season because of 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.

Jorge Polanco career statistics

"He was talking about how good he felt, how excited he is to get to spring training and put himself back on the map to where he needs to be as a starter," Falvey said. "We like this guy's stuff. We think he has the ability to pitch anywhere in our rotation."

Topa, a 32-year-old groundball pitcher, had his best year in the majors last season, yielding a 2.61 ERA in 69 innings out of the Mariners bullpen with 61 strikeouts, 18 walks and only four homers. He recorded three saves, primarily pitching in the seventh and eighth innings.

"We feel like he has a chance to pitch with the guys that are pitching toward the back end of the game to hopefully hand the ball over to [Jhoan] Duran," Falvey said.

Gonzalez, a 20-year-old outfielder who reached Class A-Advanced last year, was ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the Mariners organization by Baseball America. Falvey said the Twins are hopeful he can be a part of the next wave of Twins outfielders alongside consensus 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.

The cash the Twins received in the deal, Falvey said, gives them more flexibility for free agency as they look to add a hitter.