The upgrade at shortstop the Yankees need

joey wendle, yankees

Yankees infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa has value, mainly as someone who can play in the lineup at 2B/3B/SS. As a defender he’s average at SS, posting a -2 OAA, 5.0 UZR/150, and 0 DRS. At 3B he’s an all-worldly defender and he provides good defensive value at 2B as well. His bat leaves a lot to be desired, with a mere 82 wRC+, and while he steals bases well, he isn’t an elite baserunner. The Yankees can definitely get better at SS, and add to their lineup.

Sometimes, the best place to look is on the list of Yankee killers, and one of the more recent additions would be former Tampa Bay Ray Joey Wendle.

Bringing Added Value On the Basepaths

The Yankees have the most Offensive Runs in the American League at 29.6 (via Fangraphs). Their offense most certainly is not a problem when they’re healthy, but the team that everyone finds themselves chasing is the Dodgers. They currently have 46.4 Offensive Runs. The reason they’re so much better than everyone else in baseball? Their wRC+ is 120 (Yankees are at 116), but they’re also 3rd in BsR (Baserunning Runs) at 6.0 Runs. The Yankees have improved a lot from being one of the worst baserunning teams in baseball, but at 0.2 Runs, there’s room for improvement.

Joey Wendle this season is at 1.6 Baserunning Runs, which ranks in the top 30 despite the fact that he’s only played 25 games this year. He’s just been activated off the IL, and he had 4 stolen bases in 4 attempts and is in the 70th percentile in Sprint Speed. That value is already great, with Wendle on pace for 6.4 Baserunning Runs and 16 Stolen Bases over 100 games. For context, a 6.4 BsR would’ve been T-9th in baseball in 2021, and 16 SBs would’ve been tied for 21st. Despite this excellence on the basepaths, it isn’t his only value to the team, as he can swing the bat as well.

Great Bottom Of the Lineup Bat

Joey Wendle this year got off to a hot start, with a 138 wRC+. That obviously won’t sustain, and Wendle has always gad great Aprils (129 career wRC+ in April), but his projected Rest Of Season numbers are sound as well. According to ZiPS, Wendle is projected to put up these numbers over 89 games:

113 wRC+
2.2 fWAR
7 SBs
7 HRs

In the 7th spot of a lineup, that’s really good production, and that’s something Wendle has done for nearly 3 years straight. With a 112 wRC+ since 2020, he just hits. The Yankees already have their big boppers in Stanton and Judge, with Rizzo, Donaldson, and LeMahieu giving support around those two. Wendle provides the Yankees a steady left-handed bat that can create some noise and drive in remaining runners from the middle of their lineup, and that’s a lot of value. With his baserunning and bat, you’d think that would be enough value to justify acquiring him, but the defensive side to his game is arguably his best.

Gold Glove Caliber Defense

Since 2021 Wendle has really garnered attention as not just a versatile defender, but a gold glove caliber one as well. With 11 OAA in 161 games between 2021-2022, he’s collected 5 of those Outs Above Average at shortstop. That’s despite the fact that he played under 260 innings at SS between 2021-2022, and shows that if given a larger sample size, he could post ridiculous numbers defensively.

Given how groundball centric the Yankee bullpen is, having an elite defensive SS is of the upmost importance, and Wendle elevates the SS defense from solid to elite. That type of value is why Joey Wendle is able to be a high WAR per Plate Appearance player without posting gaudy offensive numbers, because he’s simply good at so many things.

Putting Together a Trade

For the Yankees, a trade in which they acquire Joey Wendle (who again is most likely a rental) would probably entail trading prospects that rank outside of the top 10 organizationally. Estevan Florial feels like a great fit for this deal, as the Marlins could slide Jesus Sanchez to RF, Avisail Garcia to LF, and Brian Anderson back to 3B. Florial has always been a stellar defender, and while the bat has a lot of question marks, he is a perfectly fine 9 hitter with great defense. With an arm like Edgar Barclay and another outfield prospect (Elijah Dunham is a good choice here), it would make for a fair deal for Wendle and maybe an arm from the Marlins bullpen like Anthony Bass who can opt-out of his deal at the end of the season.

The Yankees aren’t giving up top-notch prospects, but they are giving up players with value and who could make their mark as solid MLB players someday, something you’re fine dealing for an increased chance at a World Series title.