The New York Yankees are preparing to create a position battle at shortstop during spring training. Veteran Isiah Kiner-Falefa will compete with Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, who has been given the green light to fight for an opportunity to win the starting job.
While Volpe expects to start the 2023 season in AAA, where he can continue his development before making the leap to the majors, there’s a chance he will surprise and dominate this spring.
Peraza holds a bit of leverage, though, having put together a strong 18-game sample size at the end of the 2022 season. Having replaced Kiner-Falefa in the playoffs after a justified benching, we saw flashes of elite defense from the young prospect. Peraza not only brings quality glove work to the shortstop position, but he has noticeable pop to his bat and the offensive capabilities to produce at the MLB level.
If Peraza wins the shortstop job, Kiner-Falefa suddenly becomes expendable, especially if general manager Brian Cashman can’t offload Josh Donaldson and his $21 million salary. Clearing the $6 million they are prepared to pay IKF for the 2023 season is a nice consolation prize. However, that also means finding a reasonable trade partner that can use his services this upcoming year.
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Yankees-Diamondbacks Mock Trade:
Yankees trade: Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Kiner-Falefa is a starting-caliber player that can feature at either shortstop or third base. Unfortunately, he’s not good enough to help the Yankees compete for a championship, so rolling with the team’s youth agenda could be a more efficient strategy.
At 27 years old, IKF hit .261 with a .314 OBP last season, including four homers, 48 RBIs, and a career-high 22 stolen bases. He posted an 85 wRC+ with a 1.3 WAR, but those numbers are expected to take a reasonable dip next season. His Steamer projections have him hitting .264 with a .315 OBP, three homers, and 23 RBIs with just eight stolen bases. In fact, they have IKF playing just 62 games after featuring in 142 this past campaign.
Given IKF is on a one-year deal, he doesn’t hold much value, but the Yankees can get back a low-level prospect and the cash they’ve already invested in his services.
Diamondbacks trade: Diomede Sierra
In this scenario, the Diamondbacks pay Kiner-Falefa‘s full $6 million salary and give up lefty prospect Diomede Sierra.
Sierra is a 21-year-old lefty pitcher who could translate to the bullpen down the road. He played with Arizona’s single-A affiliate last season, hosting a 5.13 ERA, 9.90 strikeouts per nine, 0.98 home runs per nine, and a 51.5% ground ball rate across 73.2 innings.
Sierra has a solid sweeping slider, and his fastball reaches 95 mph. For a lefty, that is a great dynamic the Yankees may value.
FanGraphs notes that Sierra flashes plus breaking ball stuff and has a lateral action to his throwing motion. Given he pitched over 70 innings last season, the Yankees can transition him to a bullpen role where he can serve a situational purpose as a lefty with a great breaking ball.
At the end of the day, the Yankees are getting back a project in return for Kner-Falefa, but they can use the $6 million in a number of different ways to improve the roster.