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Mariners get 2B Polanco from Twins in trade for pitchers DeSclafani, Topa and prospects

Polanco has been limited by ankle, knee problems

By TIM BOOTH and DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writers
Published: January 29, 2024, 7:39pm
2 Photos
Minnesota Twins' Jorge Polanco walks in the dugout after striking out in the third inning of Game 3 of an American League Division Series baseball game against the Houston Astros, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in Minneapolis.
Minnesota Twins' Jorge Polanco walks in the dugout after striking out in the third inning of Game 3 of an American League Division Series baseball game against the Houston Astros, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhorn) Photo Gallery

SEATTLE — After several seasons of asking and coming up short, the Seattle Mariners finally found a trade package that worked to land Jorge Polanco.

The Mariners acquired Polanco from the Minnesota Twins on Monday for pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Topa, two minor leaguers and cash.

“I think I personally made more calls on this trade than I ever have on any trade before at the behest of both my own want to add him, and our group,” Seattle general manager Justin Hollander said.

The deal could help both teams. Seattle adds a proven switch-hitter to its lineup, and a healthy Polanco should provide an upgrade at second base.

The Twins get a standout reliever in Topa, a viable starter in DeSclafani and one of Seattle’s top prospects in outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez. Minor league pitcher Darren Brown is also going to Minnesota.

The 33-year-old DeSclafani was traded to the Mariners earlier this month from San Francisco. He had a 4.88 ERA for the Giants last season while making 18 starts.

The right-handed Topa had a 2.61 ERA in 75 relief appearances as a rookie for the Mariners in 2023.

The 30-year-old Polanco became expendable with the emergence last season of rookie Edouard Julien for the Twins, who are trimming their club-record payroll from 2023 in light of the uncertainty around their regional broadcast revenue. Polanco will make $10.5 million this season, and his contract has a $12 million club option for 2025 with a $750,000 buyout.

Polanco came back from a knee injury to hit .255 with 14 home runs and a .789 OPS in 80 games for the Twins in 2023 while playing some second base and moving to third base to accommodate Julien. Polanco has the most home runs (112) by a switch-hitter in Twins history.

Polanco signed with the Twins out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, made his major league debut in 2014, became their regular shortstop in 2016 and ultimately moved to second base in 2021. Ankle and knee problems limited him in recent years, but when he stayed healthy he thrived at the plate. Polanco made the AL All-Star team in 2019 while hitting a career-high .295 in 153 games. In 2021, he hit 33 homers with 98 RBIs — both career highs — in 152 games.

He’s a .269 career hitter with a .780 OPS in 832 games.

“We did a very thorough medical review. I think we understand what the injuries have been,” Hollander said. “One of the things that is important to us and was important to our training staff is understanding what kind of worker (Polanco) is and all of our feedback was that he works as hard as anybody.”

Seattle was set to go into the season with Josh Rojas as its likely primary second baseman after he was acquired last summer from Arizona. Rojas hit .272 in 46 games at the plate and made 38 starts at second base after coming to the Mariners.

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Rojas and Dylan Moore will likely slot into utility roles off Seattle’s bench.

DeSclafani was thought to be an option at the back end of Seattle’s rotation for the upcoming season. He’s made just 23 starts combined the past two seasons after having a career-best year in 2021 when he went 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 31 starts for San Francisco.

The right-hander makes $12 million this year in the final season of a $36 million, three-year deal.

DeSclafani has had plenty of injury problems over his 10-year major league career, including an elbow strain that sidelined him last summer. He told Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey after the trade that his arm has been feeling good this winter.

“We like this guy’s stuff. We think he has the ability to pitch really anywhere in the rotation,” Falvey said. “When he’s been healthy, he’s been a really good pitcher. We’ve just got to keep him healthy.”

DeSclafani will provide valuable rotation depth for the Twins, who lost Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle in free agency. DeSclafani and Louie Varland will both go through spring training as starters, Falvey said, before the club decides on who the No. 5 starter is. Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober and Chris Paddack are slotted in the first four spots.

The loss of Topa will be a hit to the Mariners as he was one of their most consistent arms out of the bullpen. Topa struck out 61 batters in 69 innings and had a stretch of two months last summer in which he allowed one earned run over 27 appearances.

Gonzalez was regarded as one of the top prospects in the Mariners organization after hitting a combined .298 with 18 homers and 84 RBIs for two Class-A clubs last season at age 19.

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