The Yankees have shown interest in a trade for Rangers infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa, according to Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. SNY’s Andy Martino (Twitter link) also notes the Bronx Bombers’ interest in Kiner-Falefa, and adds that free agent Andrelton Simmons continues to be on the Yankees’ radar as the team explores shortstop possibilities.
This isn’t the first time the Yankees have been linked to either player. Grant notes that New York has asked about IKF in the past, while Martino reported in October that the Yankees talked to the Twins about landing Simmons prior to this summer’s trade deadline.
Kiner-Falefa is under arbitration control through the 2023 season while Simmons could quite possibly be signed for just a one-year contract, and thus both players represent the type of short-term shortstop additions New York is reportedly looking to acquire. While the Yankees’ need at shortstop immediately generated headlines due to the presence of so many big names in the free agent market, the team may already have either Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza ticketed as the shortstop of the future. Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Chris Taylor are the remaining top-tier shortstop candidates on the market, but barring a collapse in their market to the point that they would take a one-year stopgap contract, the Yankees don’t seem to be interested in any of the major names.
Taking nothing away from Kiner-Falefa or Simmons, of course, as they would both bring some value to the Yankees’ shortstop position. While neither player excelled at the plate in 2021, both are tremendous fielders, and Simmons obviously has a track record as one of the better defenders in the history of the shortstop position.
As per the Outs Above Average (16) and Defensive Runs Saved (15) metrics, Simmons kept up that spectacular form over his 1091 2/3 innings at shortstop last year. The UZR/150 metric delivered only a -1.1 score for Simmons, however, while Kiner-Falefa also had an outlier in the form of a -7 OAA. Kiner-Falefa otherwise graded well in his first season as a full-time shortstop, with a +10 DRS and +1.1 UZR/150 over 1360 innings.
Kiner-Falefa also won a Gold Glove as a third baseman in 2020, so the Yankees would have some extra flexibility in how they chose to deploy him in the lineup. Gio Urshela can also play some shortstop and DJ LeMahieu can be used at third, second, or first base. Simmons has never played anywhere other than shortstop during his MLB career, so he would be more of a traditional everyday answer at the position.
With Corey Seager and Marcus Semien now locked into the Texas infield for the next decade, the Rangers could make Kiner-Falefa expendable at the right price, though he also has some natural import to their 2022 plans. Top prospect Josh Jung is expected to make his MLB debut next year and seems like a long-term answer at the hot corner, but Kiner-Falefa could certainly stick around to handle third base until Jung is ready, or if Jung struggles in his first taste of Major League action.