Yankees' Brian Cashman speaks at a news conference at spring...

Yankees' Brian Cashman speaks at a news conference at spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, on Monday March 14, 2022. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — Brian Cashman unintentionally (probably) channeled Michael Corleone while extolling the virtues of the blockbuster trade he consummated late Sunday night.

"The beauty for us," the general manager said, "was that it settled a lot of business."

Indeed, in the Yankees family Cashman oversees — a mostly functional one, but not always behind the scenes — a conclusion at last was reached that a club that had not distinguished itself defensively in recent seasons needed improvement.

So on Sunday, Cashman sent catcher Gary Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshela to the Twins in exchange for shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa — whom one rival infield coach on Monday called "an absolute stud" defensively — former American League MVP Josh Donaldson and catcher Ben Rortvedt, an unproven 24-year-old catcher whose forte is considered his defense.

"We feel by doing this trade that we’ve upgraded defensively and offensively at third, defensively at shortstop, placed Gleyber [Torres] at a position he’s best at — at second base — so on the infield side, we’ve upgraded three different ways," Cashman said. "And improved the defense on the catching side as well. It was with one transaction with one particular team that solved a lot of areas of focus that we had targeted."

At third, the Yankees now have the 36-year-old Donaldson, a three-time All-Star who won the 2015 MVP award while with Toronto. The righthanded-hitting Donaldson, who batted .247 with 26 homers and an .827 OPS in 135 games with Minnesota last season, isn’t as flashy at third as Urshela but is considered an above-average defender and, at times, a terrific one. Offensively, there’s no comparison.

Gerrit Cole, who along with Donaldson spent most of their respective news conferences Monday talking about the latter’s public call-out of the former regarding the sticky substance ban that went into effect for pitchers last June, said he’s been a long-time admirer.

"Obviously, tremendous power, a well-balanced hitter, can use all fields, is tough to strike out, has a good eye and can pick the [expletive] out of it on defense," Cole said. "I’ve always respected the player. The talent on the field is second to none."

Donaldson said he was "shocked" when given word of the trade but happy to go from a team that likely would not have been a contender this season to a team that is all but certain to be one.

"New York is an organization that has, obviously, a history of being a very successful franchise, and it’s something that I’m excited to be a part of," Donaldson said.

The righthanded-hitting Kiner-Falefa, 26, batted .271 with eight homers, a .670 OPS and 20 steals in 25 attempts in 158 games last season with the Rangers, but his specialty is defense. Though Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove at third base in 2020 with Texas — and now is the Yankees’ third-string catcher, as he’s appeared in 73 career games at the position — he was brought aboard to solve the Yankees’ defensive issues at shortstop.

"We think he’s a superior defender in a lot of positions," Cashman said. "I understand he’s very confident — in a good way, not in a cocky way. But he believes in himself, his makeup’s really good. So he’s a great energy, positive, highly confident athlete that’s going to bring speed and defense to a position of need for this lineup."

The trade did require Cashman to make a difficult phone call. That was to Sanchez, a part of the Yankees’ organization since 2009, when the Yankees signed him for $3 million at the age of 16 out of the Dominican Republic.

"It was not a phone call I was looking forward to making last night," Cashman said. "I’ve been with Gary from the start."

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