We're less than a week away from Opening Day and the New York Yankees' roster questions are coming into focus ... even though they're still largely unsolved. Who will be the starting shortstop? What's the bullpen structure going to look like? Starting left fielder? Will Isiah Kiner-Falefa even be here?
Though some fans are really hung up on that last question, it's important to remember that trades aren't exactly a staple during Spring Training. Teams like to figure out where they stand in-house before conducting a roster shakeup so close to the start of the season. You can see why that's sensible.
But if you ask Chris Kirschner and Brendan Kuty of The Athletic, they seem to think the Yankees will strike a deal involving IKF before Opening Day, which will shake up the roster. Even more intriguing is the asset they think the Yanks might be able to get in return.
Per the two (subscription required), Rafael Ortega and Estevan Florial will be coming north with the team next week. That's ... something.
As for IKF, he could be shipped across the country to another AL team in exchange for a pitcher that might be falling out of favor.
Can Yankees fans expect an Isiah Kiner-Falefa trade before Opening Day?
"If Kiner-Falefa remains on the team, it’s clear the Yankees have been preparing him for a utility role. He played in center field on Friday and does have the flexibility to play second, short and third base. If they do trade him, the Yankees could likely add some starting pitching depth. Someone like Seattle’s Chris Flexen, who may not make the Mariners’ rotation, could make sense for the Yankees. "- Chris Kirschner of The Athletic
Flexen would be a colossal get for the Yankees, who just a month ago had the best rotation in the sport ... but now have Clarke Schmidt and Domingo German as their Nos. 4 and 5. Not gonna cut it.
In Seattle, it looks like Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Marco Gonzales will make up the starting cast, leaving Flexen, who is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 11 strikeouts in four starts (13 innings) this spring on the outside looking in. After watching Adam Frazier depart in the offseason, the M's could use a versatile defender with a contact bat, though we wouldn't say it's exactly imperative for them.
It seems like they'd have more use for Flexen, who is 22-15 with a 3.66 ERA, 4.15 FIP and 1.29 WHIP in 64 games (53 starts) over the last two years for Seattle, regardless of whether he makes the rotation or not. Those are good numbers, and pitching depth is a paramount priority for every team in the league.
An IKF-for-Flexen swap doesn't represent equal value, so maybe the Yankees throw somebody else in there? Either way, the reality is that trade rumors surrounded the right-hander as recently as a couple of weeks ago, so this wasn't a scenario birthed out of thin air.
If the Yankees can acquire any sort of above-average pitching candidate and get IKF's $6 million off the books, it'd be a major coup. After that? Bring up Anthony Volpe in late April and boot Florial off the roster. Thanks.