The New York Yankees have a shortstop position battle ready to unfold during spring training. Position battles are a rarity for the Yankees, but with a newfound youth movement, including Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe, and Oswaldo Cabrera, it is no surprise to see the veterans trying to fend off the rookies for their starting positions.
Peraza enjoyed a small sample size of action last year but showcased Gold Glove level defense during the ALCS after Isiah Kiner-Falefa was benched due to poor play. However, the Bombers decided to retain IKF on a one-year, $6 million deal to compete and potentially offer a utility option at shortstop and third base.
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However, the team has reportedly explored opportunities regarding a trade, and if he eventually loses the shortstop battle, they could offload his salary and reallocate the funds toward another position.
Kiner-Falefa and fellow top prospect Anthony Volpe will be in the mix in February through March, but the Yankees have explored ways to trade Kiner-Falefa. The same can’t be said for the youngsters.Via Chris Kirschner and Brendan Kuty of The Athletic.
What type of value does Isiah Kiner-Falefa offer the Yankees or any other team?
IKF, 27, hit .261 with a .314 OBP last season, including four homers and 48 RBIs with a career-high 22 stolen bases. He only posted a 13.6% strikeout rate, a low number that showcases his ability to generate contact. Unfortunately, he generated only 20% hard contact last year, 61.6% medium contact, and 18.4% soft contact, the highest number in his career.
Kiner-Falefa isn’t known for his ability to hit home runs or for power, instead hoping to make adequate contact to put the ball in play routinely. Last season, Isiah produced plenty of ground balls, normally hit directly at awaiting infielders, which is suggested by his 31.4% on-base rate. Some metrics showcase his defensive value, though, noticeably his range. He enjoyed 10 defensive runs saved above average, but the number of balls he skipped in the dirt and routine grounders botched don’t go unnoticed.
The Yankees clearly feel more confident regarding Peraza’s defense, but his offense is still a big question. He did manage to hit .306 with a .404 OBP across 57 played appearances last year, but those numbers will decline in 2023.
The question is, what team could find IKF as a suitable trade piece? The Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, and even the Minnesota Twins may be intrigued, but for the Yankees, it’s not about the prospects gained in return. It’s about the $6 million they have to spend on a potential left-field competitor, which could end up being Jurickson Profar in free agency.