The Yankees agreed on a one-year contract with Isiah Kiner-Falefa on Friday, opting to secure the shortstop ahead of the 8 p.m. non-tender deadline while also avoiding arbitration, the team announced.
The deal reportedly is worth $6 million — just shy of the estimated $6.25 million Kiner-Falefa was projected to earn in arbitration, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.
Some speculated that Kiner-Falefa, who came to the Yankees along with third baseman Josh Donaldson and catcher Ben Rortvedt last March in the trade that sent Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to the Twins, would be non-tendered in light of the emerging prospects the Yankees have at the position, including Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe. After the Yankees' loss to the Astros in the ALCS, Kiner-Falefa himself openly wondered if he’d be in pinstripes in 2023.
Kiner-Falefa was a Gold Glove winner at third base in 2020, but his costly errors at shortstop this season at times upset a fan base interested in what Peraza could do at the position. Peraza was called up in September, though his opportunities were limited. Oswaldo Cabrera also plays shortstop but was mostly deployed in the outfield after making his major-league debut in mid-August. Volpe was promoted to Triple-A when Peraza joined the Yankees, and it’s reasonable to believe he’ll also be in the mix competing for the shortstop job come spring training.
General manager Brian Cashman has said there will be a competition for the Opening Day role.
Kiner-Falefa compiled a slash line of .261/.314/.327 and was intermittently benched in the postseason as manager Aaron Boone played shortstop roulette in an effort to overcome an Astros squad that swept the Yankees and went on to win the World Series. He committed 15 errors and was -4 outs above average at the position, according to Baseball Savant, though Boone consistently said Kiner-Falefa’s defense was being scapegoated to an excessive degree.
“On the balance of the season, it was very good,” Boone said of Kiner-Falefa’s defense at the manager’s year-end news conference. “I know there’s some frustrations . . . but on the whole, I feel like he was by-and-large excellent defensively.”
Yanks claim Fernandez. The Yankees claimed righthanded reliever Junior Fernandez off waivers from the Pirates. Fernandez, 25, made his major-league debut in 2019 and had a 2.41 ERA in 18 2/3 innings for the Cardinals and Pirates in 2022. He has a 5.17 ERA in 54 major-league innings over parts of four seasons with 35 walks and 47 strikeouts. He was 2-3 with a 4.87 ERA in Triple-A in 2022 with the Cardinals' and Pirates' affiliates . . . The Yankees agreed to terms on a one-year contract with reliever Lou Trivino, avoiding arbitration.