The New York Yankees face a big question once again at the shortstop position. Having tried to solve the spot for years at this point, general manager Brian Cashman continues to look for answers even after acquiring Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2022 season.
That deal with the Twins may end up being one of Cashman’s worst trades to date, given he took on $50 million over two years to acquire IKF, who was benched during the playoffs for his defensive vulnerabilities.
However, the Yankees now look ahead to the 2023 season, and IKF certainly could be left out of the equation. The 27-year-old hit .261 with a 31.4% on-base rate, four homers, and 48 RBIs. He did record a career-high 22 stolen bases, finishing with a 13.6% strikeout rate and 6.6% walk rate. His 85 wRC+ indicates he’s 15% worse than a league-average player, so despite his contact hitting, the Yankees didn’t get average-quality play out of him. The team paid $4.7 million for the 2022 season, but with one year left of arbitration on Kiner-Falefa’s deal, it will be interesting to see how much his price tag increases.
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The Yankees could chance IKF’s position next season:
There is a possibility that Cashman looks to offload Donaldson’s contract and move IKF to third base, which would open up shortstop. IKF won a Gold Glove on the hot corner several years ago, offering Oswald Peraza a chance to lock down the shortstop position, at the very least until Anthony Volpe is ready to make the transition to the majors.
The question is, when will Volpe be ready to make the transition? He made the leap to Triple-A this season, spending 22 games there, hitting .236 with three homers and five RBIs. He was fantastic with Double-A Somerset, though, so he just needs a few months with Scranton to prove his worth.
If Volpe is ready to make the jump, the Yankees could flip Peraza at the deadline to solve any issues that may arise throughout the season, but we saw a glimpse of his elite defensive capabilities against Houston in the playoffs, which indicates he should get a fair crack at the starting job. There’s also a chance Gleyber Torres is traded, and they may want to transition Peraza over to second base.
Alternatively, they would have to utilize a stop-gap if they are 100% committed to Volpe and don’t want to give Peraza a true opportunity to be the long-term solution at shortstop.
One thing is for sure, there shouldn’t be any consideration of IKF remaining at SS moving forward. Just take a look at the Houston Astros and how they committed to rookie Jeremy Peña, who completely demolished the Yankees in the ALCS. Sometimes, consistent at-bats go a long way toward helping a young player, which is why tossing Peraza in for a singular game against Houston was always a problematic decision.