The New York Yankees are re-signing controversial shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a one-year, $6 million deal. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report it.
Shorstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and the New York Yankees are in agreement on a one-year, $6 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. There was thought Kiner-Falefa could get nontendered before the 8p ET deadline, but he's back in his last year before free agency.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 18, 2022
Passan is right that Kiner-Falefa was something of a non-tender candidate. Manager Aaron Boone famously benched him in the playoffs on account of his multiple fielding blunders at shortstop. Kiner-Falefa had a -4 outs above average (OAA) at the position, but a +10 defensive runs saved (DRS).
Isiah Kiner-Falefa wasn’t much of a hitter either, batting .261 with four home runs, 48 RBI, and a paltry .642 OPS.
And it now looks like he’ll be the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop, but why? There’s plenty of free agency shortstops available, namely Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, and Dansby Swanson. The Yankees also have infield prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, not to mention the popular Oswaldo Cabrera.
This is where things get interesting. Owner Hal Steinbrenner recently sat down for an interview with the YES Network and said the “intention” is to have Peraza and Volpe man the middle infield. Earlier Friday, the Post’s Joel Sherman reported both Kiner-Falefa and Gleyber Torres were being shopped.
At the same time, Brian Cashman also spoke lavishly of the Yankees’ two top infield prospects. He called them “ahead of their time” with comparisons to Robinson Cano and Alfonso Soriano. This after Cashman staunchly defended Isiah Kiner-Falefa and his seemingly many flaws all season.
So where does that leave IKF? It’s hard to say. The contract might just be a means of putting a number on him for future trade talks. Remember, both Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez agreed to new deals with the Yankees before being shipped to Minnesota last spring for, ironically, Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Whatever the reason, IKF will almost certainly open the 2023 season wearing Yankee pinstripes. How long he does, however, is another story.