Just when you think the Yankees might be done, there’s buzz about them potentially making a last-second deal prior to Opening Day. While the Yankees have spent plenty in free agency, they’ve remained quiet in the trade market. It’s not uncommon to see last-minute trades to clear roster space as Spring Training comes to an end and the regular season, and Chris Kirschner of The Athletic hints at a potential buzzer-beater deal from longtime GM Brian Cashman.
“I don’t think the Yankees are done trying to improve the roster before Thursday. I do think a move could be made before Opening Day. Cashman told reporters Monday he’s still canvassing the league”– Chris Kirschner, The Athletic
With an infield logjam still remaining and question marks surrounding Oswald Peraza’s long-term fit in the organization, will the Yankees try to make one last trade?
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Yankees Potentially Moving Former Shortstop?
The Yankees have long been rumored to have Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the trade block, and this could be a hint at potentially trading their Opening Day starter at shortstop last season. IKF struggled to field his position reliably, and while he displayed elite-level range, he couldn’t complete seemingly routine plays, and it led to him being benched at times in the postseason. The organization has fallen out of favor with IKF, and while he’s been an excellent teammate and is learning the outfield to provide utility to this ballclub, the Yankees might prefer to roster both Ortega or Florial over IKF trying to learn a new position.
It’s a tough spot to be in for Brian Cashman, who tendered IKF in the offseason as a security blanket if Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe were to struggle in camp or get hurt, but now the $6.5 million price tag that comes with acquiring IKF through trade creates a deterrence. Most teams that could afford the 28-year-old have too talented of a roster to utilize him much more than the Yankees would, and the teams that do need IKF or a utilityman of sorts would prefer to stay in-house with options that emerged in Spring Training since it saves them money and roster spots.
It’s unfortunate because it’s clear that he’s an MLB-caliber player, he won a gold glove at 3B for a reason, but most teams have already reached or exceeded their budget. Perhaps the Yankees could eat some of his salary to get something more valuable in return, as paying just $3.25 million for IKF would certainly be more enticing for a team needing speed, defense, or just depth in their position player group. We don’t know about his value in the outfield just yet, but the Yankees seem confident that he could hold his own out there with his speed, even in spite of a below-average arm.
There were talks about the Rockies and Dodgers potentially being interested, but both teams have seemed to go internally with their non-roster invites or prospects instead of choosing an external option. I imagine that there could be some teams still interested, but the Yankees may have to eat some of that money to get any suitors, unlike what I imagine the market could look like for the projected second baseman for the Yankees in 2023.
Could Added Pressure Be Placed on Gleyber Torres?
Oswald Peraza’s success in Triple-A could dramatically shorten the lifespan of Gleyber Torres on this roster. I can already hear people rushing to say that the Yankees could simply move Oswald Peraza to third base, but the Yankees already confirmed that Peraza will play the middle infield, not third base. Josh Donaldson and DJ LeMahieu is the only other options on the 40-Man Roster that will routinely start at third, and with Aaron Boone all but confirming that Donaldson is playing the hot corner on Opening Day, they’re placing a lot of faith in the former MVP to bounce back after a disappointing 2022 season. Torres, on the other hand, finds himself surrounded by potential replacements.
DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Volpe, and Oswald Peraza are all legitimate options to become the full-time starting second baseman at some point during 2023 if Torres struggles or gets hurt, placing immense pressure on the organization’s former top prospect. Torres is coming off of a season where he hit 24 HRs and had a 115 wRC+ with excellent defense at second, and yet he’s had to deal with trade issues since last July. It’s a cruel fate, but at the end of the day, it’s a business, and the Yankees are always going to look to flip surplus assets and try to get a position of need.
It’s not too long ago that the Yankees stunned everyone by trading Jordan Montgomery in the final seconds of the trade deadline for Harrison Bader, a move that looked awful but turned out to be the core reason for their victory over the Cleveland Guardians in the ALDS. Torres could be shopped for an outfielder or pitcher with control past 2023, especially with Bader, Severino, and Montas all hitting free agency after the 2023 season. Unlike with IKF earlier, teams would 100% make the financial situation work to acquire the services of the former All-Star, as his power is rare for the position.
Still just 26 years old, Torres is someone that teams could extend and make a core piece of their team for a long time. Personally, I believe Torres is too good of a hitter for this team to trade unless they get an outfielder of similar value, but demoting Peraza just to call him back up seems extremely unlikely with just two days before Opening Day. There are also few outfielders who can compare to Torres offensively that would be available on the market at Torres’ value range, which creates a serious trade issue for the Yankees.
It’s just less of a headache to keep Gleyber Torres and hit him 5th every day while you figure out young players like Anthony Volpe and Oswaldo Cabrera or veterans like Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks. He’s one of the few infielders on the team with extensive MLB experience, no health concerns, and strong projections entering the 2023 season.
The only other realistic option would be to trade Oswald Peraza, but just like with Torres, you’d have to be extremely selective with what you’d trade him for. He’s got plenty of service time, has a higher floor than most prospects due to elite defense at a premium position, and, most importantly, is just 22 years old. He’s someone that you make part of an extremely talented core of players for a long time as well, and he’s dirt cheap financially. It’s not out of the picture to see Peraza traded, but I’d like to see how Anthony Volpe holds up defensively at shortstop prior to dealing a potential gold-glove-caliber defender.
If I had to guess, Isiah Kiner-Falefa just makes the most sense to trade, though he nets the lowest return in a trade and also doesn’t really impact the playing time distribution of the team. That being said, if the right return is there, don’t be surprised if one of Torres or Peraza are potentially dealt either now or in-season for a dire need.