Yankees sign SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa to one-year deal

Alexander Wilson
new york yankees, isiah-kiner-falefa
Sep 5, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; Minnesota Twins third baseman Gio Urshela (15) beats the tag of New York Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa (12) for a stolen base in the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees had a few options when it came to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who had a polarizing 2022 season after being acquired from the Minnesota Twins before the campaign began.

At 27 years old, IKF played in 142 games for the Yankees, hitting .261 with a 31.4% on-base rate, four homers, 40 RBIs, and a career-high 22 stolen bases. He struck out at 13.6%, walked at 6.6%, and posted an 85 wRC+, indicating he was 15% worse than the average MLB player.

Kiner-Falefa had a few highlight moments with the Bombers but otherwise struggled to field routine ground balls and was eventually benched during the postseason in favor of Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza in the ALCS. Benching a player in the biggest moment is a great way to crush one’s confidence, but the Yankees and the young infielder came to an agreement on a one-year extension for the 2023 season, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.

The Yankees elected to keep Isiah Kiner-Falefa:

The two sides would’ve headed to arbitration, but IKF may have earned a little bit more than $6 million. To save a few pennies, they agreed on a one-year, $6 million contract, despite rumors that he could be non-tendered before the 8 PM deadline on Friday night. Non-tendering him would essentially clear any financial commitment and allow him to sign elsewhere, but general manager Brian Cashman clearly saw value in retaining IKF.

The question now is, how will the Yankees utilize him in 2023, or will he try to move him this off-season in exchange for a prospect? With Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe expecting to compete for the starting shortstop job, IKF’s role is obsolete, unless they transition him to third base for one season if they manage to offload Josh Donaldson and his $21 million.

The expectation was that IKF would stick around for the last year of control since, at the very least, he can offer the team a decent utility option at third base and shortstop while Peraza ultimately takes over. Volpe will be in the mix, but I anticipate he will slide in at second base after spending a bit of time in Triple-A, honing his skills and developing momentum before making the transition.