The New York Yankees should be active at the 2022 MLB trade deadline. Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him with apparent needs, from relievers to a starting pitcher and a left fielder that can hit the ball consistently.
One area of concern for Yankees fans, and one that has been discussed here before, is that of shortstop. Isiah Kiner-Falefa hasn’t been a disaster at the position, but one could look at his numbers and be concerned that he’s starting for a team with World Series ambitions. His .272 batting average is above his career .266, but his team-worst walk rate, non-existent power, and inconsistent defense make it hard to justify his position as the starting shortstop, even during a 13-game hitting streak. And while it’s not the most pertinent need for the team, some upgrades could be pursued by the Yankees.
One of the primary upgrade targets is Joey Wendle, a 32-year-old left-handed-hitting utility player who has donned uniforms for three teams over his seven-year professional career. Now, he plays with the Miami Marlins, who sit with a 46-51 record in the NL East. They’re 4.5 games out of the last NL wild card spot, chasing the St. Louis Cardinals, and it was reported that they are willing to move out almost anyone, which makes them the perfect potential trade partner for a contending team like the Yankees.
Wendle’s profile is intriguing from the outset because he isn’t solely a shortstop. He has played third and second base with the Marlins in 2022, just as he has throughout his career. Over his major league tenure, he has over 1700 innings as a second baseman and 1400 as a third baseman, but only 499 as a shortstop. Hence, while the Yankees would be trading for his abilities at shortstop, it’s the position he’s the least familiar with.
The good news is that it’s not as if Wendle isn’t successful when asked to play in that area of the infield. DRS credits him with four runs saved at the position across his career. In a small sample in 2022, he sits in the 77th percentile in Outs Above Average per Baseball Savant, whereas Kiner-Falefa places in the 18th percentile. Wendle also rates very well at other positions, so the Yankees would be getting a surefire above average defender if they were to pursue him.
Wendle has put together a very solid year with the bat, with a .290/.338/.400 slash line to go along with a 110 OPS+. That said, there’s a chance he slows down a bit as the second half of the season churns forward. Wendle owns an xBA of .269 and xSLG of .355, which would be a marked downgrade from his realized production.
Although it’s unlikely that Cashman and the Yankees feel like they need an upgrade at shortstop, Wendle would be a quality candidate. He’s a better defender by OAA than Kiner-Falefa and a better hitter. Upgrading a below average player to a decent one may not seem like a lot, but it’s those small upgrades that could make all the difference to a World Series caliber team.
Another positive is that Wendle is under team control for another year, and if a player happens to go down with an injury in the infield, he could most likely take over for them. So not only would he be a much more effective shortstop, but he could also be a useful backup option at other positions if all else fails, for this year and 2023. Any upgrade is a good upgrade; a team is only as strong as its weakest link. If Wendle were the Yankees’ weakest link come October, it would be hard to argue that Cashman didn’t do his job.