Like it or not, Isiah Kiner-Falefa has a role with the New York Yankees if he's utilized properly. Even if guys like Oswald Peraza, DJ LeMahieu and Oswaldo Cabrera are ahead of him in the pecking order, stashing a versatile defender and contact bat at the end of the bench is hardly a bad idea.
It seems the Yankees and manager Aaron Boone have finally realized IKF's most valuable as a utility player, which has become more and more of a reality during Spring Training with Anthony Volpe's emergence.
But the Yankees have gotten hit with injuries. Harrison Bader, the team's starting center fielder, is set to miss the start of the season. There are now issues with the team's catching depth after it was revealed Jose Trevino is dealing with a wrist injury.
In theory, this has created a greater need for IKF, who can play second base, shortstop, third base and catcher (in emergencies). The Yankees have also been experimenting with him in the outfield. Do we want to see that? Not necessarily. But at this point, the team just needs bodies heading into March 30.
So then why are these two scenarios, presented by Yankees insiders Chris Kirschner and Brendan Kuty (subscription required), the likeliest for IKF?
What's the Yankees plan with Isiah Kiner-Falefa in 2023?
"From my conversations with several people around the team this spring, I’ve never once gotten the impression that Kiner-Falefa was going to be the team’s choice at shortstop. It’s always felt like it’s Peraza’s job to lose instead of the incumbent. Now if Peraza were to get hurt and is forced to miss time, then yes, I do think they’d resort to starting Kiner-Falefa in this scenario. I think the likeliest outcome for the Yankees and Kiner-Falefa is exploring a trade before the start of the season."- Chris Kirschner and Brendan Kuty
Yup, most fans would agree that IKF was never really in the running for the starting shortstop job. At the onset, it was always assumed he would fill in for Peraza in the event of an injury, but now with Volpe pressing the issue as the potential Opening Day starter, how can IKF even be a consideration this late in the spring?
How can it be he's the starting shortstop if Peraza is unavailable or ... he's traded? Some might argue Peraza getting hurt shouldn't even affect IKF's status. He should continue to be deployed as a utility man where reps are needed if he remains on the roster. If he's traded, so be it. But it can't be "starting shortstop or enjoy playing for another team." That seems counterintuitive in regard to what the Yankees actually need.
If the plan was to always trade him, then great. Don't have him be the backup shortstop. Bring Volpe up north with the team on Opening Day and expedite that promising process rather than provide any semblance of running back what didn't work last year.
The inside info from Kuty and Kirschner is certainly more valuable than our perspective, but fans can't let it go unnoticed.