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Yankees Trade Partner History: Minnesota Twins

In over a century of deals, their most recent stands out the most.

New York Yankees v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

With the relationship between the Yankees and Twins recently being headlined by the former’s dominance over the latter in the postseason, the two storied franchises have engaged in plenty of trades over the years. Through name and location changes, and over a century of history, these two franchises have been striking deals since the early 1900s.

Despite the long history between the Yanks and Twins, many of the more impactful trades have gone down in recent years. There could be some recency bias at play, but a few of these deals, for better or worse, are still impacting the clubs at the moment. Let’s dive into their lengthy history on the trading block.

Best Trade

November 11, 2015: The Twins trade Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for John Ryan Murphy.

At the time, this was not the most earth-shattering deal. It was a backup catcher for a likely fourth outfielder. The Yankees sent John Ryan Murphy to Minnesota in this deal. He had spent parts of the last three seasons in New York as a depth catcher, and was coming off his best year in 2015. He appeared in 67 games and boasted a solid 100 OPS+, given his role. Sadly for him and fans in the Twin Cities, Murphy only appeared in 26 games for his new team, and hit a paltry .146 in 90 plate appearances. He played 87 games for the D-Backs in 2017, but could never quite catch hold of a spot after the trade, and he has been out of the league since 2020.

In return, the Yankees received toolsy outfielder Aaron Hicks. To that point, he was mostly known to Yankee fans for his incredible outfield assist against them back in 2013:

After his best season thus far, he would now throw his bullets in pinstripes. Given how little the Yankees ended up giving in this deal, they really did get quite a lot out of Hicks. After a forgettable debut season, he became a near All-Star level player for 2017 and ‘18, finding his power stroke, and playing a significant role on several playoff teams. Particularly in 2018, when, amidst Aaron Judge’s injury trouble, Hicks stepped up as perhaps their next most valuable player. He hit a career-high 27 homers, posting a 129 wRC+ and 4.3 fWAR.

The extension he got and the end of his time in the Bronx were not so pretty, but that doesn’t take away from the savvy deal, or the great moments Hicksy had with the team.

Worst Trade

March 13, 2022: The Twins trade Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt to the Yankees for Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela.

When you think of trades between these two teams, this is probably the one that pops up first. If you’re a Yankees fan, the memory is probably not a fond one. The Yankees sent two significant players to Minnesota, starting third baseman Gio Urshela, and the polarizing Gary Sánchez. Urshela was a key player for the Yankees from 2019-21, acquired in a savvy deal of its own, breaking out out of nowhere and becoming a more-than-solid contributor on both sides of the ball. He kept things rolling with another great season with the Twins in ‘22, took a step back in 2023 with the Angels and is currently testing free agency. Meanwhile Sánchez, as talented as he may be, continued struggling to find the magic he had in his early Yankee days. He did, however, have a bit of a renaissance with the Padres in the second half of 2023, and is also looking for a suitor this offseason.

As far as the return, things don’t get much better. Though Rortvedt’s existence can now be confirmed, his production on the field cannot, as he has only appeared in 32 games since the deal. Kiner-Falefa saw plenty of time with the team, much to the chagrin of most Yankee fans. He could do some good things, but he probably isn’t quite qualified to play 138 games at shortstop for a team that wants to contend. He had a 84 wRC+ in his two Yankee seasons.

That brings us to Donaldson, the former MVP and headliner of the deal.

New York Yankees v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Long prior to the deal, injuries had begun to take their toll, but he was still a star when healthy. But of course, Donaldson went out and posted his two worst seasons since becoming a full-time player with the Yankees. In a number of ways, he didn’t make any friends here either, and his surprising below-average play wasn’t doing him any favors either.

Most Overlooked Trade

January 17, 1936. The Washington Nationals traded Bump Hadley and Roy Johnson to the New York Yankees for Jimmie DeShong and Jesse Hill.

Trades are easy to overlook when they’re nearly a century old, but this was a worthwhile one for New York. They gave up DeShong, who would go on to be a back-of-the-rotation arm for the then-Nationals after the deal, and Hill who provided 118 games of below-average production at the plate.

And while Johnson did not provide much in his time with the Yankees, his travel-mate in the deal, Bump Hadley certainly did. In five seasons with New York, he pitched at least 150 innings in four of them, to solid overall success with a 104 ERA+. He was also a significant contributor to four World Series winning teams in the late ‘30s dynasty.

Weirdest Trade

August 31, 2003. The Yankees trade Jesse Orosco to the Twins for a player to be named later. The Twins sent Juan Padilla (September 2, 2003) to the Yankees to complete the trade.

Pitcher Jesse Orosco, New York Yankees’ most recent addition Photo by Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Sometimes a deal at face value isn’t all that weird, but its the fun thoughts it brings along with it. Not only did the Yankees have a 46-year-old on their roster, but another team was willing to take him on! Orosco was in his 24th big league season — long after closing out the 1986 World Series across town — and the Yanks sent him to Minnesota to finish his career. He holds the all-time record for pitching appearances, and was the final active player to play in the 1970s.

Orosco was a lefty specialist for much of his late-career, and in his mid-forties was sporting a rough-but-fitting 46 ERA+ with the Yanks. So, why not send him off to another team for Padilla, who would pitch in just 11.1 innings for the Yankees?

Other Trades of Note

June 14, 1936: The Washington Senators trade Jake Powell to the New York Yankees for Ben Chapman.

Talk about a lose/lose in terms of quality of character.

February 6, 1998: The Yankees trade Brian Buchanan, Cristian Guzmán, Eric Milton, Danny Mota, and cash to the Twins for Chuck Knoblauch.

The Yankees sent away a couple of future All-Stars, but received Knoblauch, who was a key part on three championship teams — albeit while developing the yips and having to move off second base, where he once excelled.

March 16, 2018: The Yankees trade Jake Cave to the Twins for Luis Gil.

Gil will need to turn into something special for this to actually matter, but considering that the Yankees were mostly just clearing 40-man space, they got a nice little prospect for their troubles.

July 30, 2018: The Twins trade Lance Lynn and cash to the Yankees for Luis Rijo and Tyler Austin.

The Yankees got ahold of Lynn in the lull period of his two excellent stretches as a big league starter, but didn’t end up losing much in the former Baby Bomber Austin.

Previously in the Trade Partner History series

Philadelphia Phillies
Full list to date