The New York Yankees started spring training with a position battle at the shortstop position, featuring Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe.
When the Bombers acquired IKF from the Minnesota Twins last off-season, he was always meant to be a stopgap solution. His role as a long-term shortstop was always predicated on Volpe and Peraza making the leap to the MLB. Given Peraza replaced IKF last year in the postseason, it was only a matter of time before he completely took over, and the Yankees had to make a decision with the veteran infielder.
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Reports have indicated that Peraza has the shortstop job locked u. IKF has begun advocating for himself publicly, suggesting that he’s willing to do whatever it takes, including shifting positions if need be.
“I think the two guys that are ready for the big leagues, pushing to the big leagues, are both shortstops,” Kiner-Falefa said. “So if something were to happen to anybody else on the team injury-wise or something, it wouldn’t be them moving. I feel like I’ve shown versatility in my career so far and it’d be a lot easier move for me to do it, to help the team.Via the NY Post.
The Yankees already have Oswaldo Cabrera and DJ LeMahieu as utility pieces:
The 27-year-old is capable of playing third base and shortstop. In fact, he’s won a Gold Glove on the hot corner, but has only ever played a maximum of 366.1 innings in a single season. Offensively, his game is entirely reliant on contact hitting, producing a .261 average last year with a .314 OBP, four homers, 48 RBIs, and 22 stolen bases. While he does feature a 13.6% strikeout rate, he doesn’t get on base much and his lack of power is apparent on a team that relies heavily on home runs.
The Yankees should save Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s salary:
It is possible that the Yankees retain IKF and utilize him as a reserve, but the better move would be to clear the $6 million owed to him this upcoming season and reallocate it toward a position of weakness. General manager Brian Cashman already indicated that the infield is one of their stronger points and leveraging assets there would allow them to smooth over positions that needs support.
“That’s why I’m kind of happy that I’m able to show it off the next couple days because I need a role on this team if I’m not playing shortstop. I have an opportunity the next couple of days to put myself in a role. If it’s not at shortstop, then maybe that allows us to hold on to me. It’s nothing I can control, but at the end of the day, I’m looking at this opportunity to cement myself here.”Via the NY Post.
Considering IKF is hitting .235 with a .300 OBP this spring, tallying four hits across 17 at-bats, it might be too little too late to save his job with the team. If I were a betting man, I would put my chips in on Kiner-Falefa being moved prior to opening day .