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Will the Yankees Trade Isiah Kiner-Falefa?

Will the Yankees Trade Isiah Kiner-Falefa?

From the moment the Yankees originally acquired Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Twins, the expectation has been that he’d serve as a bridge to top infield prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe. At the time of the trade — which also saw Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt go the Bronx while sending Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to Minnesota — Kiner-Falefa had two years of club control remaining. That generally aligned with the timetables for both Peraza and Volpe, allowing them to develop in ’22 while Kiner-Falefa held down shortstop before perhaps moving into a utility role.

That’s generally how it’s played out. Peraza impressed in an 18-game cup of coffee late in the 2022 season and entered camp with a chance to break the Opening Day roster as the Yankees’ everyday shortstop. Volpe entered spring training as a longer shot to make the Opening Day roster for a variety of reasons. He’s a year younger than Peraza, has just 99 plate appearances above the Double-A level and is not currently on the 40-man roster. Still, he’s turned in an impressive spring training and begun to see some time at second base, further planting the seed that he could be in the Majors alongside Peraza sooner than later — certainly at some point in 2023.

The looming ascension of both Peraza and Volpe is enough to cloud Kiner-Falefa’s role on the team on its own, but last year’s strong debut from the versatile Oswaldo Cabrera only adds to the pile-up of infield talent. The switch-hitting 24-year-old worked primarily in the outfield last year but has experience at all four infield spots. After hitting .247/.312/.429 in 171 plate appearances as a 23-year-old rookie, he’s staked his claim to a spot on this year’s roster as well.

The Yankees were aware of this depth but still saw value in holding onto Kiner-Falefa at a generally reasonable $6MM price point for his final season of club control. Spring injuries are always possible, and there was certainly a scenario where any combination of Peraza, Volpe and/or Cabrera got to spring training and looked vastly overmatched at the plate. That hasn’t really been the case, and it’s made Kiner-Falefa’s role on the 2023 club look a bit more questionable — particularly with Gleyber Torres still penciled in at second base and Donaldson returning at the hot corner.

To that end, the Yankees have begun getting Kiner-Falefa some reps in the outfield. The 27-year-old said just this morning that he expects to play center…

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