Could Yankees trade utility man to open up roster spot?

MLB: Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees, isiah kiner-falefa
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The harsh reality for the New York Yankees is crystal clear: the team requires significant changes, including turning over some starting positions and bidding farewell to a few players.

Trade Deadline Challenges and Considerations

Brian Cashman, the team’s general manager, is expected to bring in fresh talent at the upcoming trade deadline. However, the Yankees have financial constraints to consider, and they must also strategize for the 2024 season while simultaneously aiming to rejuvenate this season’s offense.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reveals that the Yankees are $1.1 million over the final luxury tax tier, hinting that they might try to shed some salary instead of acquiring more. Accepting other contracts seems improbable, but parting with a little more to have the opposing team shoulder the rest of their salary is a likely move.

Potential Players to Offload for the Yankees

Rosenthal suggested that the Yankees might aim to offload some of their lower-cost players to achieve minor financial adjustments. Utilityman Isiah Kiner-Falefa (IKF), who is due $2 million for the remainder of the season, falls into this category.

Manager Aaron Boone appears to value IKF, particularly for his resilience and versatility in playing multiple positions. While IKF is a commendable support piece, the Yankees have been deploying him as a primary starter in left field, which is unsustainable. The 28-year-old former infielder is batting .251 with a .309 OBP this season, alongside an 89 wRC+ with five home runs and 24 RBIs.

Evaluating IKF’s Performance

Historically, IKF has never been considered an exceptional hitter but a reliable infielder who prefers third base over shortstop. Despite this, the Yankees have positioned him in the outfield this season for 439.1 innings, where he has posted a .984 fielding percentage with -6 defensive runs saved and -2 outs above average.

These metrics suggest he’s been a net negative defensively, and the Yankees lack alternatives, especially with several injuries on their roster.

MLB: Texas Rangers at New York Yankees
Jun 23, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; A ball drops in front of New York Yankees center fielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa (12) allowing a run to score in the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Possible Trade Options and Prospects

Trading the remainder of IKF’s salary to a team seeking a young utility player could prove advantageous. It’s realistic to expect the Yankees to part ways with IKF after the current season, making it a sensible move to try and acquire some value in return.

The Yankees have several rotational options in the outfield or the prospect of promoting a player like Everson Pereira, who is excelling in Triple-A after being promoted. The team also still has DJ LeMahieu under contract, who, despite a recent uptick in performance after the All-Star break, primarily offers defensive value as a utility piece in the infield.

In conclusion, if the Yankees aim to add to their active roster, they will need to offload some players. Thus, IKF suddenly emerges as a viable trade piece should they decide to venture in that direction.

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