Yankees’ utility man dodges trade deadline: ‘Thank God I’m a Yankee’

isiah kiner-falefa, yankees
Apr 13, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa (12) looks to see if he will checked for illegal substances after pitching in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees made only modest moves at the trade deadline on Tuesday evening, acquiring relief pitchers Keynan Middleton from the Chicago White Sox and Spencer Howard from the Texas Rangers to bolster their bullpen.

Lack of Major Changes: The Missed Opportunity

Regrettably, general manager Brian Cashman failed to implement any substantial changes. This was despite the team’s urgent need for a strong left-field hitter and a lasting addition to support their future World Series aspirations.

The Uncertain Future: A Challenge for the Yankees

The lack of significant movement leads us to question the Yankees’ prospects for long-term success. If the team is to thrive, Cashman must make significant improvements to the roster during the 2024 off-season. The presence of aging contracts and underperforming veterans presents challenges, but there are strategies the Yankees can employ to redirect their trajectory.

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A Potential Trade Prospect: Isiah Kiner-Falefa

One player who caught the eye in the trade market is utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Despite a less-than-ideal offensive season and uncertain outfield defense, Kiner-Falefa has emerged as one of the team’s most consistent hitters. Acquired from the Minnesota Twins last year for the 2022 campaign, the 28-year-old was enlisted to fill the shortstop position.

Kiner-Falefa’s Performance This Season With the Yankees

This season, Kiner-Falefa is hitting .259 with a .325 OBP, featuring five homers, 20 RBIs, a 16.6% strikeout rate, a career-high 8.5% walk rate, and a 96 wRC+. His performance this season has been one of the best in his career, notably a career-high 36.1% hard-hit rate, 3.8% in barrel rate, and an average exit velocity of 88.6.

Notably, in June, he hit .292 with a .419 OBP, second only to Aaron Judge but with a substantially larger sample size.

Despite recurrent criticism over the past two seasons, Kiner-Falefa has never retreated from adversity. Instead, he has discovered new ways to contribute and secure his place in the team. His efforts cannot be overlooked, as he has evolved into a capable utility man who can compensate for injuries.

In terms of defense, Kiner-Falefa has spent 481.1 innings in the outfield this season, resulting in -2 defensive runs saved and -1 out above average. These figures suggest he has been a reliable defender and has excelled at third base when required.

Trade Deadline Aftermath: Kiner-Falefa Remains a Yankee

As the trade deadline passed on Tuesday, Kiner-Falefa waited for a call from the Yankees’ management. Fortunately, he evaded any trade deals. On Wednesday, expressing his relief and loyalty, he declared, “Thank God I’m a Yankee.”