josh donaldson yankees
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Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman spoke to the New York media on Friday as part of a typical end-of-the-season press conference. The Yankees won 99 games and the American League East, but it was another disappointing finish after getting swept by the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

Boone and Cashman will likely be back in their current positions in 2023. The Yankees’ manager feels they’re close to getting over the hump and winning a World Series, too. “The reality is, we are close. We have a team that is realistically in that conversation,” Boone said to the media.

But will they get any closer if New York doesn’t make significant changes to the left side of its infield? Instead of signing a big-name free agent last winter, Cashman opted for a trade with the Minnesota Twins. Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez went sent packing in favor of Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Donaldson provided excellent defense at third base, but his offense was mostly missing. He produced 1.6 fWAR while slashing .222/.308/.374 in 546 plate appearances. That was followed by a .172/.333/.207 line with no homers, no RBI, and a 44.4% strikeout rate in the postseason.

IKF also didn’t hit much. He posted a .642 OPS in 531 plate appearances, but New York acquired him for his defense. Advanced metrics were split on his performance at shortstop. FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs Saved put him at +10, while Statcast’s Outs Above Average settled in at -4. This doesn’t include him also getting benched during October because of his own defensive miscues.

But on Friday, the defending of both Donaldson and IKF was in full effect. First, Boone discussed why he views IKF’s defense as an asset:

Then, he moved on to explain away Donaldson’s disappointing season at the plate:

IKF is projected to earn $5.6 million through arbitration next year. That’s not a big deal, but Donaldson’s $21 million salary will certainly put a damper on the Yankees’ payroll. Knowing how New York has operated with Hal Steinbrenner calling the shots, the veteran third baseman probably isn’t going anywhere.

That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t, though.

The biggest focus for New York at the start of this offseason will be Aaron Judge’s future. But if the outfielder does return, he’ll need some help on offense. A year after deciding against paying for a free-agent shortstop, Cashman will have another opportunity. His choices will range from Carlos Correa to Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, and even Xander Bogaerts (if the Red Sox let him reach the open market). New York also has some younger shortstop options in Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera.

Outside of filling the holes left by players entering free agency, the left side of New York’s infield should be one of its top priorities. If they’re as close to winning a World Series as Boone said during his presser, something needs to happen with that part of the roster.

It feels like Friday’s justifications will act as the basis for keeping Donaldson and IKF in their current roles for 2023. That’ll unfortunately just lead to more of the same problems the Yankees experienced this past year.

Matt Musico can be reached at and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

Matt Musico is an editor for ESNY. He’s been writing about baseball and the Mets for the past decade. His work has been featured on numberFire, MetsMerized Online, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo! Sports.