In the span of three days, New York Yankees fans learned Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Javier Baez would not be taking over as the team’s shortstop in 2022. That’s official.
If we’re to judge by the front office’s behavior and buzz we’re hearing about ownership trying to have the league ease up on luxury tax payments, we can safely assume Carlos Correa or Trevor Story won’t be Yankees, either. Sorry, guys. We’re well aware how upsetting this is.
To make matters worse, after general manager Brian Cashman echoed the team had an immediate need for a shortstop (something we already knew but just needed a firm confirmation from those in charge), the Yankees have been loosely linked to … underwhelming options.
In fact, when we heard Andrelton Simmons’ name this week, objects were nearly smashed. That’s not the kind of energy we need this offseason, or what this team needs heading into a crucial bounce-back 2022 campaign.
We’ve speculated on A’s shortstop Elvis Andrus since we can expect a fire sale in Oakland, but we haven’t heard anything. We’ve tried to connect the dots on a few others, but not much of the industry buzz has matched up.
But there is one name we mentioned that’s now being tossed around alongside the Yankees, and that’s Rangers’ infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
The Yankees are reportedly interested in Andrelton Simmons and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Simmons absolutely cannot be a possibility outside of a backup role. And even that’s pushing it. Kiner-Falefa, though? Intriguing, at the very least.
He came up in 2018 and played catcher, second base and third base in his debut season. In 2020, he moved to third base on a full-time basis and won a Gold Glove during the shortened campaign. In 2021, he was moved to shortstop and was a plus defender across 156 games. Impressive.
Still, however, he’s not a natural shortstop, which should be of concern to the Yankees … since they just tried that with Gleyber Torres. On the flip side, however, Kiner-Falefa looked like Ozzie Smith at shortstop compared to Torres, so there’s that.
Another plus is that IKF’s bat is far superior to Simmons’ … if that’s what this comparison has come to. And truthfully, the Yankees don’t need a shortstop hitting 25-plus homers per season or batting .300. They just need someone who can play reliable defense and put some bat on ball in the nine-hole. Kiner-Falefa’s career .265 average and .670 OPS aren’t impressive, but it’ll be just fine should he come to the Bronx. And we can expect those numbers to get a boost if he’s protected by MVP-caliber hitters as opposed to the disheartening crop of Rangers players over the past few years.
So, how should we feel here? No better than we have throughout this process … but it’s at least encouraging more options are being explored beyond the uninspiring stopgaps (like Simmons) that have previously been mentioned. It’s not the best solution, but if we have to abide by the Yankees’ plan to wait for the prospect shortstops, then acquiring a guy like Kiner-Falefa is definitely palatable.