The New York Yankees are preparing for their first spring training game on Saturday afternoon, kicking off multiple position battles. Shortstop is a primary battle to keep an eye on, with Oswald Peraza, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Anthony Volpe all having a fair opportunity to win the starting job.
Peraza leads the group with a slight advantage, given his phenomenal defense and pop to his bat, showcased during live batting practice earlier this week.
Given the fact that Peraza has the highest probability of winning the job, the Yankees must begin thinking about what they should do with IKF in that scenario. They have Josh Donaldson cemented at third base, and DJ LeMahieu is prepared to feature in a utility role, making IKF dispensable.
Despite the fact he is taking on a leadership role with the youngsters joining the infield, Kiner-Falefa is coming off a suspect 2022 season. Most of his numbers were in line with his career averages, but he failed to regularly field routine ground balls. He hit .261 with a .314 OBP, four homers, 48 RBIs, and a career-high 22 stolen bases. Having a player that only strikes out at a 13.6% rate is certainly a bonus in the middle of the lineup, but strikeouts don’t matter as much when the contact is weak and results in outs anyway.
Peraza may end up with a strikeout rate in the 20+ percent range, but he has far more power to his bat and should still be able to get on base at around a 31% clip, similar to IKF. So the question is, would you trade home runs for contact hitting? In addition, Peraza has a Gold Glove level stature, providing management with even more confidence at the shortstop position.
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The Yankees may have to feature Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the bench, but even then, his value is minimal:
In the scenario that IKF is sent to the bench given the log jam in the infield, it is possible he’s offloaded to a team in need of a starting infielder. This would free the Yankees to clear $6 million off the books and reallocate toward a position of need, potentially left field, on a player like Jurickson Profar.
Ultimately, the longer Profar waits, the less money he will receive, so he may end up settling for a one-year deal. Given the lack of proven talent and Aaron Hicks coming off back-to-back down seasons, adding a true competitor to the mix is ideal.
IKF has enough value to at least garner a low-end prospect and get rid of his entire contract, which is exactly what the Bomber should be trying to do if he ends up losing the position bottle, which is likely. That is not even mentioning Anthony Volpe and his eventual promotion that will add another young stud to the infield, further pushing IKF down the pecking order.