Yankees Mock Trades: Saving $6 million on IKF

isiah kiner-falefa, yankees

The Yankees have an infield log jam. However, the logjam consists of players either too talented or expensive to move. While Gleyber Torres is technically on the trade block, the Yankees will need his offense in their lineup. With a 115 wRC+ and 24 HRs, Torres is one of the few capable offensive 2B with power in the league, and while Anthony Volpe’s impressed early on, there’s no guarantee his bat will be MLB-ready. It’s clear that the odd man out in the infield is Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who, while not a terrible player, certainly doesn’t have the ceiling the other infielders have. His $6 million contract is one team would be willing to take, especially one out in LA.

The Dodgers lost their projected 2B/SS in Gavin Lux to an ACL injury during Spring Training, and with the Yankees openly shopping IKF, could this be a match for both teams?

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What Deal Makes Sense For the Yankees?

It won’t be a trade that they should make today, and the reason is simply that they need veteran insurance in case there’s an injury to one of their young shortstops. The Yankees are keeping IKF around to not just have competition for Peraza and Volpe but also give them a security blanket around the infield. That being said, when Spring Training comes closer to an end, there’s not much of a reason for him to be on the roster. Looking at how it’s constructed, they have Oswaldo Cabrera as their primary utility man, and I do not want to see IKF in the outfield.

As for the Dodgers, they could look internally to fill in for Lux instead of trading for someone, but IKF can serve as the “bridge” for a younger infielder that they’d like to develop a little more. Yonny Hernandez is who FanGraphs has slotted in as the backup infielder, but his career 51 wRC+ at the MLB level and lack of success at the Triple-A level would potentially create an opening for IKF to find a spot on their roster. Michael Busch is a candidate to fill in their infield as well, but with a sub-110 wRC+ at Triple-A last season, can he be relied upon over someone with a decently high floor like IKF?

isiah kiner-falefa, yankees
Oct 23, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa (12) throws out Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel (not pictured) in the sixth inning during game four of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The problem the Yankees have with Isiah Kiner-Falefa isn’t that he’s bad, but rather that they have a plethora of higher-ceiling infielders, and they need quality OF depth. Rafael Ortega has had a strong Spring Training so far as well, and the left-handed corner outfielder could end up providing some serious power off the bench for New York. We know that the Yankees are weak in LF, and while Aaron Boone hinted at using IKF in the outfield…I’m just not going to try to imagine what IKF would look like in Yankee Stadium’s left field.

Evaluating what a potential deal would look like comes down to finding a lower-level prospect without much buzz in the Dodgers’ organization, as Falefa’s just a rental and isn’t going to provide much upside. The Yankees would probably prefer a pitcher due to the organization having plenty of quality position player prospects, and when we look at that criteria, LHP Justin Wrobleski fits this deal perfectly. He made his professional debut in 2022 after being drafted in 2021, and with a sub-3 ERA and 24.1% K-BB%, he was certainly very effective as well.

(From @jnorris427 on Twitter)

Wrobleski possesses solid stuff, having a 93-96 MPH fastball, with solid offspeed and breaking offerings as well. The issue is the fact that he struggles with command, but the high-stuff, low-command prototype for a young starter gives them an upside as a strong reliever if being a starter doesn’t work out. The Yankees lack left-handed pitching in their farm system, and Wrobleski would provide the Yankees some help in that regard. As for the Dodgers, they’ve replenished the pitching side of their farm with ease, and they’ll get an infielder who helps them strengthen their infield right now.

Say what you want about IKF, but an 85 wRC+ with above-average defense, infield versatility, and good baserunning is a valuable bench piece for an infield relying on young talent. This is why the Yankees currently value IKF, although the fact that Donaldson and LeMahieu are also on the roster alongside Oswaldo Cabrera creates no real need for him. The Yankees are one of the more stacked teams in terms of infield depth due to their farm, and Anthony Volpe’s continued to amaze fans at camp.

This deal comes down to the Yankees’ continued health in the infield and the Dodgers’ trust in their young guys, but this could be a deal we see in a couple of weeks. There are other teams that may need infield help as well, however, the Dodgers may now be the team most aggressive on that front and the team with the best to offer.