Remember when Gio Urshela became a Yankees fan favorite out of nowhere?
An injury to Miguel Andujar and his ensuing career season in 2019 made it so. Urshela’s slick plays in the field and friendship with Gleyber Torres made him all the more popular.
Fast forward to today. Urshela is on the Twins thanks to the Gary Sanchez trade. The Yankees got back former MVP Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and catching prospect Ben Rortvedt.
At face value, the trade has worked out for both sides. Sanchez hasn’t returned to his star 2017 form, but he’s improved his framing and has a .735 OPS with seven home runs and 27 RBI. On the Yankees’ side, Kiner-Falefa’s defense at shortstop has been strong and Donaldson, despite some drama, has injected life into the dugout.
Urshela has been fine for the Twins too. That’s it. Not elite, not out of this world. Not even above or below average. Just fine.
Urshela is batting .268 with five home runs and 23 RBI, a far cry from his career season in 2019. That year, he hit .314 with 21 home runs and 74 RBI, using the whole field to put the ball in play and make quality contact. Even better, unlike so many of his teammates, Urshela wasn’t prone to strikeouts.
In fact, that’s about all Urshela does anymore — avoid strikeouts. His whiff rate and strikeout rate are in the 87th and 89th percentiles, and that’s up from his 2019 marks of 69 and 70. The shortened 2020 season and last year show the ugly truth that his career season was not the mark of a major adjustment, but juiced balls. Looking at his Statcast page, his hard contact, launch angle, and average exit velocity have all dropped.
And yet, Donaldson and the $42 million left on his contract have proven more valuable to the Yankees. His average exit velocity is down this season, but he’s 36 with a balky shoulder. Donaldson has also played borderline elite defense at third base, posting a +6 DRS and +2 OAA.
Urshela, meanwhile, has a -22 OAA for his career and only had a +1 DRS as a Yankee.
Regardless of what anyone thought of the trade back in March, it’s crystal clear that general manager Brian Cashman and the Yankees won this one. Even with all of Donaldson’s drama and baggage, he’s done more in two months in New York than Urshela did in his pinstriped career. The Yankees having the best record in baseball doesn’t hurt either.
Now, we just have to wait for the inevitable playoff series between both teams.