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Why Non-Tendering Isiah Kiner-Falefa Wouldn’t Have Made Sense

The Yankees avoided arbitration with Isiah Kiner-Falefa on Friday, a sensible outcome despite the shortstop’s disappointing debut season in New York.

The Yankees avoided arbitration with Isiah Kiner-Falefa on Friday, agreeing to a one-year deal for the 2023 season. The shortstop will make $6 million, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

While some Yankees fans may have wanted “IKF” to be non-tendered before Friday night’s deadline following a disappointing debut season in pinstripes, doing so never made much sense for the team. Here’s why…

Non-Tendering Gets You Nothing

Non-tendering Kiner-Falefa would have meant letting him go for nothing in return. While his new salary isn’t chump change, it’s inconsequential enough for the Yankees to hang on to the 27-year-old. One reason for doing so: Kiner-Falefa could be a trade target for shortstop-needy teams that don’t want to spend at the top of the free agent market, just like he was last offseason for New York. The Yankees have a pair of prospects in Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe that make Kiner-Falefa expendable, so look for them to take calls on the veteran.

What If The Kids Aren’t Ready?

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Should a trade fail to materialize, the Bronx faithful would not be pleased if Peraza and/or Volpe look ready in spring training, only for Kiner-Falefa to be New York’s starting shortstop on Opening Day. But if neither prospect is deemed ready by then or injured, Kiner-Falefa could continue to be the stopgap he was brought in to be last offseason. While some would argue he’s already overstayed his welcome in that role, Kiner-Falefa isn’t a bad option to have.

Valuable Depth

While $6 million would be a lot for a backup infielder, it's worth noting that Marwin Gonzalez was New York’s most-used backup shortstop in 2022. In 2021, a combination of Gio Urshela, Andrew Velazquez and Tyler Wade backed up starter Gleyber Torres, who is not actually a shortstop. All that is to say Kiner-Falefa would be a solid backup shortstop on both sides of the ball, a change of pace for New York. And with the ability to play third, Kiner-Falefa could give the Yankees a versatile option off the bench.

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