Meet the New Shortstop, Moderately Different From the Old Shortstop

© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

While the prime of the celebrated free agent shortstop market has but to roll into movement, the finish of final week noticed a flurry of motion a bit decrease on the positional energy rankings. The Yankees agreed to a one-year, $6 million cope with Isiah Kiner-Falefa, locking up his remaining season of staff management. And as Friday afternoon progressed, 4 different groups linked up for an trade of shortstops. A brief swap, if you’ll.

Gio Urshela went from the Twins to the Angels for 19-year-old pitching prospect Alejandro Hidalgo, Kyle Farmer went from the Reds to the Twins for minor league pitcher Casey Legumina, and Kevin Newman went from the Pirates to the Reds for reliever Dauri Moreta. .

Let’s cope with the Kiner-Falefa re-signing first, after which deal with the commerce carousel. Kiner-Falefa may most likely be much less fashionable amongst Yankee followers, however provided that he ran for mayor. He got here up with the Rangers as a catcher earlier than transferring to 3rd after which shortstop, and the Yankees hoped to get the greatest model of him: An aggressive, high-contact hitter who may hit for a fairly excessive common. He may make up for a near-total lack of walks or energy (in 5 seasons in the majors, he is by no means had an ISO of .100 or higher), with good stolen base numbers and glorious protection. (After watching Gleyber Torres at brief the last few seasons, that final bit was a non-trivial concern.) He’s by no means been an amazing participant however he is often been sufficient.

That, proper off the bat, is a bit underwhelming — the Yankees usually have larger requirements than merely “sufficient” — and IKF had an up-and-down season. He did not take a leap ahead offensively the means Urshela did in his first 12 months with the Yankees; whereas Kiner-Falefa posted the third-highest contact price amongst 130 certified hitters, he hit simply .261/.314/.327. And the protection? Merely common by OAA, however above-average by DRS. By the time the Yankees had been imploding in the playoffs, Kiner-Falefa had been benched in favor of rookies Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza.

The Yankees clearly have the cash to pursue one among the prime free agent shortstops, simply as they might have signed Corey Seager or Marcus Semien final 12 months. But bringing IKF again signifies a perception that their long-term shortstop will likely be an inside possibility. It looks like the Yankees view Kiner-Falefa as a one-year stopgap, protecting the seat heat for both Peraza or Anthony Volpe, who ought to most likely change his first identify to some spinoff of Oswald if he desires to slot in. At $6 million, Kiner-Falefa is a bit costly for a backup infielder, but when one among the youngsters performs nicely sufficient to assert the beginning shortstop job in spring coaching, that’d be a pleasant drawback to have. If not, Kiner-Falefa is a protected pair of arms for a 12 months, or no less than the Yankees appear to suppose so.

The Yankees went with a identified amount, but when they’d determined to mess around in the commerce market, it seems that they had choices:

Shortstops in the News

Player Previous Team New Team Proj. 2023 Salary* Proj. 2023 WAR
Gio Urshela Twins Angels $9.2 million 1.3
Isiah Kiner-Falefa Yankees Yankees $6 million 0.8
Kyle Farmer Reds Twins $5.9 million 1.4
Kevin Newman Pirates Reds $2.8 million 1.2

*According to MLBTR’s arbitration projections for Urshela, Farmer, and Newman

Sharp-eyed readers little doubt have already seen that I’ve grouped Urshela in with the shortstops, regardless that he performed simply three innings there in 2022, and has made almost 13 appearances at third base for each look at brief over the course of his profession Part of that has to do with being blocked by larger names — Carlos Correa final 12 months, Torres throughout his time with the Yankees, and Francisco Lindor when he first got here up with Cleveland.

Over the previous few seasons, Urshela has been an influence hitter; since 2019, he is hit .290/.336/.463, good for a 118 wRC+. With the Angels, he is as soon as once more slated to play subsequent to a big-name infielder, however a 3rd baseman this time in Anthony Rendon. Or, since you’ll by no means go broke betting on Rendon to get harm, Urshela can fill in at third if and when Rendon is on the IL.

With Correa probably on his means out, now looks like an odd time for the Twins to divest from an infielder with an above-average bat. And whereas Hidalgo has proven a lot of promise in the previous, he is a 19-year-old who simply missed half the season with a rotator cuff concern and got here again for directions throwing in the excessive 80s; this isn’t some elite pitching prospect Minnesota’s getting again.

But the Twins have choices throughout the infield. Jose Miranda impressed as a rookie, hitting .268/.325/.426 in 483 plate appearances; that is principally the identical line Urshela put up final 12 months, though Miranda is the inferior defensive third baseman. Luis Arraez received the batting title final 12 months largely taking part in first and DHing, however he can nonetheless play second, which may push Jorge Polanco again to shortstop if the Twins really feel like taking the defensive hit. Nick Gordon can play throughout the diamond, and whereas Royce Lewis is recovering from a torn ACL, he’ll be again sooner or later this coming 12 months.

Which brings Farmer into the equation. Minnesota despatched Legumina, a 2019 eighth-round decide who profiles as a possible one-inning center reliever, to Cincinnati to pry Farmer free. Farmer is principally the midpoint between Kiner-Falefa and Urshela; he is a succesful defensive shortstop, however not a spectacular one. And whereas he is a below-average hitter, topping out at a wRC+ of 91 this 12 months in the greatest season of his profession, he is not an automated out. In reality, he killed left-handed pitching in 2022 to the tune of a .309/.380/.568 line. Maybe there is a platoon in the works with Gordon, who had a 125 wRC+ in opposition to righties however only a 57 in opposition to lefties final 12 months. Or possibly the Twins are liberating up cash to make a much bigger transfer, since Farmer stands to be about $3 million cheaper than Urshela this 12 months.

But he’ll value about twice as a lot as Newman, a former first-round decide who at age 29 is being displaced by the subsequent era of Pirates prospects. Oneil Cruz already supplanted Newman this season, and Newman’s maintain on second base is probably going solely short-term with Nick Gonzales approaching main league readiness and Termarr Johnson not too terribly far behind him. Newman had his greatest offensive season since 2019 this season, hitting .274/.316/.372 in 309 plate appearances. Project that over a full 12 months and that is an honest-to-goodness common shortstop, for the value of an unremarkable reliever in Moreta.

The daisy chain of shortstop trades to finish final week carries the faint scent of the purple paper clip undertaking. The Angels, a staff that no matter its different faults does spend cash, despatched a pitching prospect to Minnesota for one 12 months of a stable infielder. Minnesota, a staff with fewer sources however comparable ambitions, changed mentioned infielder by buying and selling a barely worse pitching prospect for a barely worse, barely cheaper shortstop. And so on down the line, till the sequence reached a Pirates staff that is open to buying and selling nearly anybody.

None of those 4 infielders had been adequate to be central to their groups’ plans, which made them expendable and never significantly invaluable in commerce. But neither had been they unhealthy sufficient or costly sufficient to get non-tendered, or to tempt their groups to seek out replacements in a non-tender market that is shaping as much as be fairly uninspiring for center infielders.

Better to select up a surefire large league-quality shortstop in a commerce. Even if he prices a younger pitcher and a bit extra money. Everyone toss your keys in the bowl — you are going house with a shortstop, possibly simply not the one you got here with.

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