The Rangers made two seismic splashes on the free agency market this week, signing both Marcus Semien and Corey Seager to humongous deals.
With Texas' middle infield now locked up for nearly the next decade, the Rangers may look to move Seager's predecessor.
Could the Yankees pounce and trade for shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa? A few MLB insiders say it's a real possibility.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote on Monday that New York is "expected to contact the Rangers" and inquire about a deal in the wake of Seager's 10-year contract. Then, SNY's Andy Martino echoed Rosenthal's report on Tuesday morning, tweeting that the Yankees have in fact reached out to the Rangers, although the pre-lockout trade market was "dead" as of the beginning of this week.
Kiner-Falefa wouldn't be the top-tier shortstop that Yankees fans hoped New York would sign this winter, but he certainly would be an upgrade defensively. The 26-year-old is durable (he's played in all but six games over the last two seasons) and his offensive numbers could continue to improve.
In 2021, Kiner-Falefa slashed .271/.312/.357 with eight homers, 74 runs scored, 53 RBI, 20 stolen bases and a 3.7 bWAR. He's a right-handed hitter, but that speed and ability to put the ball in play (his 13.3 K% is in the league's 95th percentile) would be a solid addition to the bottom of New York's lineup.
Remember, New York lost Tyler Wade in a trade this offseason, cutting down on speed and defensive versatility on their big-league roster. Perhaps Kiner-Falefa isn't a high-profile upgrade, but if New York isn't planning on signing Carlos Correa or Trevor Story (the final pair of top shortstops remaining on the free agent market), this would be a suitable alternative. Especially with top prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza inching closer to their MLB debuts, a likely reason for why New York has been inactive in the shortstop market these last few weeks.
Kiner-Falefa's defense is worth noting as well. While he posted minus-7 Outs Above Average according to Statcast (ranked 32nd among shortstops in 2021), Kiner-Falefa was credited with 10 Defensive Runs Saved on FanGraphs.
Those figures are for Kiner-Falefa's services at shortstop, but he can play all over the diamond as well. He's appeared at every position on the infield except first base over his four-year big-league career, winning a Gold Glove Award at third base in 2020.
These two teams are recent trade partners as well, working out the Joey Gallo deal before the trade deadline this summer. That said, Texas is already familiar with New York's farm system and could easily articulate who they want in return for Kiner-Falefa, a player under team control for another two seasons.
He's certainly not Correa or Story, but there is an argument to trading for a player like Kiner-Falefa, saving up on the funds to address other positions and possibly extend Aaron Judge. But the clock is ticking and the free agent market gets thinner and thinner with each passing day.
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