The Yankees have arbitration and non-tender decisions ahead of them for a number of different players, but they reportedly took care of business with one on Friday afternoon. Shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa came to the Yankees last March with two years remaining before free agency, and regardless of his shaky-at-best 2022 performance, he was due for a raise in his final year of arbitration.
Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Yankees and IKF have come to an agreement.
Shorstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and the New York Yankees are in agreement on a one-year, $6 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. There was thought Kiner-Falefa could get nontendered before the 8p ET deadline, but he's back in his last year before free agency.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 18, 2022
The Yankees have confirmed that they did indeed avoid arbitration with IKF.
Despite Kiner-Falefa’s frequently frustrating results in 2022, it never seemed particularly likely that the Yanekes would nontender him. These days, $6 million is not a staggering number, even for someone who should be a role player at best.
The Yankees stood behind Kiner-Falefa’s defense all year long, so it would have been a surprise to see them do an about-face and cut him loose, even if they thought that they could bring him back for a little less guaranteed money. At the very least, they could still shop IKF this offseason anyway; remember that the guys they traded to get IKF in the first place were initially tendered contracts for 2022 (now-free agent Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela, who coincidentally was just dealt to the Angels). Popular opinion on Kiner-Falefa might be low, but I can all but assure you that the Yankees aren’t the only organization to think that he has some value.
There’s a reasonable argument that the Yankees simply shouldn’t have concerned themselves with the low risk of losing IKF considering how little he brings to the table — an 85 wRC+ and 1.3 fWAR aren’t exactly important. After all, with Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, and top prospect Anthony Volpe, there are a number of different in-house shortstops available even before looking into free agency or the trade market. But it’s not a shock to see the Yankees throw $6 million at IKF just to stick around in the interim.
A lot can change between now and Opening Day against the Giants on April 1st. For now, IKF is in the Yankees’ plans.