Let's assume the best-case scenario for the New York Yankees this spring training and say DJ LeMahieu returns to his 2019-2020 self and Anthony Volpe makes an undeniable impression, forcing the team to include him in the infield picture somehow.
How does this change the dynamic? What happens to players like Josh Donaldson, Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, all of whom, at some point, have been mentioned in trade rumors or were considered expendable in some manner?
We've talked about all of this ad nauseam, but as we get closer to spring training and other Yankees insiders continue to weigh in, we may have a clearer picture how things may unfold between now and Opening Day (just a little over six weeks away!).
Let's start with the least nuanced scenario. Donaldson probably isn't going anywhere because of his elevated salary and lack of interest on the trade market. The only way this happens is if the Yankees absorb a good portion of his salary and/or attach a top-10 prospect to any deal. The front office will likely wear this one for another year.
But Kiner-Falefa and Torres? Per Brendan Kuty and Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (subscription required), there's still very much a chance one or both are moved before the start of the 2023 season should LeMahieu and Volpe create a new vision.
The Yankees could still trade Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Gleyber Torres
"The expectation is that Oswald Peraza — ranked as the Yankees’ No. 3 overall prospect by The Athletic’s Keith Law — is the front-runner to start at shortstop. The 22-year-old even earned a playoff start when Isiah Kiner-Falefa faltered. Kiner-Falefa and fellow top prospect Anthony Volpe will be in the mix in February through March, but the Yankees have explored ways to trade Kiner-Falefa. The same can’t be said for the youngsters."- The Athletic
"Torres has been in trade talks for a few seasons. With No. 1 prospect Anthony Volpe looming, this may be the year Torres winds up playing elsewhere."- The Athletic
In their latest piece for The Athletic, Kuty and Kirschner were bearish on a Donaldson trade but sang a very different tune when it came to IKF and Torres, mentioning that the Yankees are reportedly still open to moving one or both.
With Oswald Peraza all but officially locked into the starting shortstop job barring an injury or unforeseen horrific spring showing, there's a chance one or both of IKF and Torres are no longer needed if Volpe emerges alongisde his top prospect counterpart. Previous reports have suggested the Yankees hope to utilize Peraza and Volpe as the future middle infield, which obviously spurs a need for change given the status quo.
Maybe IKF is dealt before Opening Day and LeMahieu is used as a utility option for the time being, with Donaldson at third and Torres at second. If the Yankees want Volpe to get some more time at Triple-A, that could buy Torres a couple more months before the organization's top prospect is called up (then you'd assume Torres is moved at the deadline if there are no injuries in the infield). Maybe Torres is dealt before Opening Day with LeMahieu taking over at second base and IKF remaining the utility man before Volpe's arrival.
There are a few scenarios to consider, but Yankees fans should be bracing for a considerable infield shakeup as early as March and as late as July.