Evan’s Take: Evaluating the New York Yankees shortstop problem

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It’s yet another offseason for the New York Yankees where they come off a disappointing performance in the postseason. The team has yet to reach the World Series since 2009 and were unable to reach the full potential of a 2022 lineup that featured an MVP candidate in Aaron Judge, an ace pitcher in Gerrit Cole, and power hitting options like Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo. It hurt even more for the team considering it was to the Houston Astros, a team that’s historically dominated the Bronx Bombers. While you could point fingers at just about any position on the team, including the team’s general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone, I’ve chosen to focus on the team’s problem at shortstop and evaluate the most likely options they currently have at fixing the position and bringing it back to a positive aspect of the team.  

Isiah Kiner-Falefa 

The Yankees picked up Kiner-Falefa this season in a trade with the Minnesota Twins that also got the team former all-star Josh Donaldson. At the time, while I wasn’t a fan of the acquisition of Donaldson, I really liked what Kiner-Falefa brought to the table. He was a former gold glove winner, he showed solid potential at the plate, and brought a great attitude to the locker room. What wasn’t to like? However, as the season progressed, the defensive strengths that Kiner-Falefa once flashed in Texas became a thing of the past. He committed error after error and while he wasn’t awful at the plate, it wasn’t nearly strong enough to help make up for the defensive mistakes he was making on the field. 15 errors are certainly not great and it’s clear that the Yankees can’t see him as a dependable player in 2023. If New York were to retain him for next season, he’d be best as a backup infielder and definitely not as a starter, unless the team is interested in repeating the results of his 2022 season once again. 

Oswaldo Cabrera 

Cabrera was called up on Aug. 17 and showcased his versatility across the field. Throughout his short time during the regular season, he played third base, shortstop, second base, first base, and right field. He definitely lacked the bat he had during the regular season in the postseason, but if he can fix some things going into his second season in the majors, I like what he brings to the table. From a shortstop perspective, I really don’t see how he could be a main option at shortstop for this team with his weaknesses, but you certainly need to retain him if you’re the Yankees. That versatility on the field that Cabrera provided this season is great for this roster, especially when you can retain him on a cheap contract. However, he’s certainly not a starter for this team and it’s best to keep him as a utility man for next season or as an injury replacement. 

Oswald Peraza 

The pressure to bring up Peraza was tremendous in 2022. At a young 22 years old, Peraza was the #3 prospect in the team’s farm system and had many enticing tools that could be of great use to the team. He has great defensive tools for an MLB shortstop and while he may not have elite power, his contact and ability to pop with the ball was certainly seen when the Yankees decided to call him up on Sep. 1. His defense was such a priority that the team opted to start Peraza in game 2 of the ALCS even with his little experience in the majors. He even showed off some flare on defense with a couple of great plays for the team. Peraza’s speed is really solid and it’s been shown on the base pads, so that’s a huge plus. I could see the team going with Peraza with what he showed depending on his 2023 spring training performance, or they could go with my next option: a younger shortstop with higher upside and one of the top prospects in baseball.  

Anthony Volpe 

Volpe is the future of the Yankees shortstop position and there’s no doubt in my mind about that. I think this may be the most likely option that the team goes with given what he’s proven so far. If you’re not familiar with the current AAA ballplayer, I did a small scouting report on Volpe in 2021. He’s showcased that he not only has a great bat, but he also has the defensive tools to be successful in New York. There’s a reason that the team opted to keep Volpe rather than trade him for options like Luis Castillo, an easy No. 2 option on a pitching rotation when you look past options like Cole, Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino. This is a gamble from the Yankees front office in choosing Volpe due to him not being a proven option compared to my next 2 options, but it’s not necessarily a risky gamble if they go with the No. 5 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com.  

Carlos Correa 

One option that the team could go with is more proven at shortstop, and one of those options is Correa. Last year, I got criticism for saying that the former Astros shortstop may end up in pinstripes for a one year deal rather than signing a long term extension. While he did not end up in New York in 2022 and the financial value was off, he did only stay with Minnesota for one year and immediately opted out. He now has the option to get a big contract for the 2023 season, whether that’s on a short term deal or on a longer deal. The Yankees could be in the running if they’re able to offload some contracts like Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks. It’s certainly not a bad option as Correa has a great bat and immediately fixes the defensive problem at shortstop. He earned a 35 million dollar deal from Minnesota in 2022 and I expect him to either earn the same in New York or more with an agent like Scott Boras. Another plus with signing a player like Correa or my next option would allow the team to flip a top prospect in Volpe and Peraza for another weakness on the team, a proven starting pitcher in the MLB that would immediately give pitching coach Matt Blake and the entire starting rotation more to work with heading into the 2023 season. 

Trea Turner 

I’m not as excited for Turner compared to Correa due to his defense, but he is still an amazing option. He’s come a long way in his progression on the defensive end with a 1.0 dWAR and -1 defensive runs saved compared to 2020 total of -5. Correa is a better and consistent defender, but Turner’s bat is so valuable to a Yankees roster that struggled at the plate during the postseason. In 4 games during the Los Angeles Dodgers postseason run in 2022, Turner hit .333 with a 1.111 OPS and even though Los Angeles was unsuccessful in their journey for a ring, Turner’s bat was certainly not part of the problem. Turner received about $21 million in 2022 and should definitely receive less than Correa regardless of which team he ends up on. However, if the Yankees do want to add a stronger bat to their lineup while saving some money in the process, Turner is certainly not an option to sleep on. 

1 COMMENT

  1. What about Xander Bogaerts? Both will likely cost less than Correa and Turner. Bogaerts has shown he can handle AL East spotlight and has the highest OBP of any of the big name SS’s. He’s also got that good guy rep as an excellent clubhouse guy that the Yankees seem to prefer…and he’s been one of the healthiest players in recent memory (something that the Yankees teams of recent memory have not been). And he’s coming off a season where his defense where his defense was pretty excellent.

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