The New York Yankees project to create a position battle at shortstop between Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe in 2023. They’ve utilized a myriad of different options as stop-gaps in the most recent past, including Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who the team signed to a one-year extension this off-season.
Given Peraza experienced 18 games of action at the end of the 2022 season, he is expected to have the advantage and the first crack at the starting shortstop gig next year. Volpe likely needs a few extra weeks, if not months, with Scranton in Triple-A before making the jump, but he’s extremely close to being called up.
With the Yankees’ long-term plan at shortstop coming to fruition, that makes Kiner-Falefa expendable, despite signing a $6 million deal to stick around for one more year.
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The Yankees don’t need Isiah Kiner-Falefa if they can get some value in return:
At 27 years old, IKF has struggled after being acquired from the Texas Rangers before the 2022 season began. He hit .261 with a 31.4% on-base rate, including four homers and 48 RBIs. He featured in 142 games, hosting a 13.6% strikeout rate and a 6.6% walk rate. His 85 wRC+ indicates he was 15% worse than the average MLB player, suggesting that the Yankees should move on.
Defensively, he posted a .970 fielding percentage across 1360 innings. He tallied 19 total errors but did add 10 defensive runs saved above average with -2 outs above average.
If general manager Brian Cashman is looking to retain Josh Donaldson for next year and not offload his contract, IKF might end up being the odd man out. Given the number of players they have to choose from in the infield, the Yankees should be thinking about utilizing some of them as trade bait to add pieces elsewhere.
Considering the Yankees need a new left fielder and Minnesota twin’s defensive maestro Max Kepler has been linked, sending IKF back to Minnesota could make sense. They currently need a shortstop, and Kiner-Falefa fits the bill.
The question is, how much value does IKF currently have, given his lackluster numbers? Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if Isiah somehow landed on the hot corner for the Yankees if Cashman finds a suitor for Donaldson, even if it means taking on a portion of his salary just to get him off the books.