Do the Yankees really need a shortstop?

Oswald Peraza could become the Yankees shortstop in 2023

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The Yankees haven’t had the same shortstop for more than a year. In September 2021, Gleyber Torres was moved to second base by manager Aaron Boone. Many people thought that the Yankees would sign one of the top five free agent shortstops from last year, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Trevor Story, or Marcus Semien.

But as the offseason started, it was said that the team wasn’t going to put much effort into the shortstop position. They were so sure of their young prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza that they didn’t feel the need to give them a long contract. Instead, they traded for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, a player who was best at defense and still had two years of cheap control left.

Things went pretty much as planned in 2022, as Kiner-Falefa continued to hit below average but did good work with the glove most of the time. His batting line of .261/.314/.327 gave him a wRC+ of 85, which was pretty close to his career marks. He made some mistakes on defense in the playoffs, but in the regular season, his Defensive Runs Saved was +10, which tied him for sixth place among MLB shortstops for the year. Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average were not as positive, but he was still about average for the league. In March, he will turn 28.

After a year, it doesn’t look like the long-term plan has changed. This year, there is another group of great shortstops. Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson are all free agents. But recent news still points to the fact that the Yankees are confident enough in their own players to spend their offseason working on other things. Now, the question is how strong that faith is. Is it time to give your kids the keys or not?

Before a year had passed, Peraza had only played in eight Triple-A games. He started the 2022 season back at that level, where he played 99 games. He hit 19 home runs and stole 33 bases during that time. He hit .259/.329/.448 at the plate, giving him a wRC+ of 106. He was moved up to the big leagues late in the season, where he played in 18 games. He only hit a home run once, but in that small sample, he hit at a .306/.404/.429 level, giving him a wRC+ of 146. In the minors, his batting average on balls in play was.302, but it jumped to .359 in the majors. This seems like it won’t last, but it’s still encouraging. In June, he will turn 23.

Volpe ended 2021 in the High-A league and began 2022 in the Double-A league. In 110 games there, he hit 18 home runs and stole 44 bases. This gave him a batting line of .251/.348/.472 and a wRC+ of 122. After being moved up to Triple-A, he struggled. In just 22 games, he hit just .236/.313/.404 for a wRC+ of 91. In April, he will turn 22.

Oswaldo Cabrera is a surprise addition to the mix. As a prospect, he wasn’t thought to be as good as Peraza or Volpe, but he’s come a long way in the past few years. He split his time in 2021 between Double-A and Triple-A, where he hit 29 home runs and stole 21 bases. He hit .272/.330/.533, which gave him a wRC+ of 130. In 2022, he hit well again in Triple-A, so he moved up to the big leagues. In 44 games in the major leagues, he hit .247/.312/.429 and had a wRC+ of 111. He played all four infield positions and both corners of the outfield. In March, he’ll turn 24.

With those young players in or close to the big leagues, the Yankees might not think they need Kiner-Falefa anymore. They just avoided arbitration with him by giving him a $6M contract, but they could work out a trade if they feel safe enough with their other options. But they could also keep IKF around in case the younger players have any growing pains and use him as a utility player over time. Other than Torres, the other infielders on the team are on the older side. Josh Donaldson turns 37 next month, and Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu will turn 34 and 35, respectively, during the next season. No matter who gets the starting shortstop job, the team will probably want to have backups in case any of these players get hurt or don’t play well, as they all did in 2022.

It’s likely that the job will be given to the best candidate. Whoever plays the best in the spring and then in the regular season will continue to play. The other players can be moved to utility or bench roles, spend more time in the minors, or be traded to another team. It does look like the plan is likely to work since they just need one of these options to take over. By not giving a shortstop a nine-figure contract, they will be able to use their money to try to keep Aaron Judge or go after other big-name free agents as they try to win the AL East again in 2023.

But who do you think will be the regular shortstop in the year 2023? At this point, Cabrera has the most MLB experience, but he has less of a track record as a prospect and seems to be able to move around easily. Peraza doesn’t seem to have much to prove in the minors, but he’s only played 18 games in the majors. Volpe just got to Triple-A, but next year he could be a big star. If no one else wants the job, Kiner-Falefa is still around.

So, who do you think should be the Yankees shortstop in 2023?

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