- E.J. Fagan
How to Fit Both Volpe and Peraza
by EJ Fagan
March 25, 2023
NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.
Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.
I think Anthony Volpe is going to make the team. If he does, the Yankees are in a tough spot with Oswald Peraza. If Volpe didn’t exist, we would be ecstatic to see Peraza in pinstripes. He’s 23 years old, an elite defensive shortstop who has conquered Triple-A and had a cup of coffee in the majors. He deserves a spot just as much as Volpe. But how do you make it happen?
Here are the moves I would make today if I were Brian Cashman
Release Josh Donaldson, IKF to the Bench
Donaldson can still play major league ball and the Yankees owe him $29 million. However, they are better off without Donaldson. His salary is a sunk cost. Bite the bullet and cut your worst infielder.
Unlike Donaldson, Kiner-Falefa has a lot of value as a bench player. Sure, he’s expensive, but I suspect he would be traded by now if teams thought he could play shortstop every day. The best Yankee teams in my lifetime all featured strong benches, not players like Marwin Gonzalez and Tim Locastro.
Trade Gleyber Torres for Seth Brown
Gleyber Torres is a good major league player. He’s a career above-average hitter with a wRC+ of 117. As an average-ish defensive second baseman, his hitting plays well enough to hold down a spot on a playoff team. However, I think Anthony Volpe is probably a better second basemen in 2023 than Torres, potentially much better.
Unlike Donaldson and Kiner-Falefa, Torres has some trade value. The Yankees might be better off without him, but they shouldn’t give Torres up for nothing. They have an obvious need in the outfield, preferably from the left side. They could also use some depth pitching given all the injuries.
I think the Yankees should find some way to acquire Seth Brown for Torres. Brown is a left-handed hitter who should be strictly platooned (129 wRC+ vs. righties, 60 wRC+ vs. lefties). He’s a decent corner outfielder, with Hicks-tier speed but poor arm strength. He’s a pull hitter who should benefit from both Yankee Stadium and the new shift rules. He can even play first base in an emergency, if poorly. He would make a great platoon partner with Oswaldo Cabrera or Giancarlo Stanton. Basically, Brown is a better Rafael Ortega.
As a starting middle infielder, Torres is clearly more valuable than Brown. Maybe the Yankees can find some pitching depth in a Seth Brown trade. However, I’d even do the trade 1:1, probably as part of a three-team deal. The Yankees are better off Volpe starting at second and Brown in a platoon role than with Volpe in the minors, Torres at second and Ortega in the outfield every day while Bader is out. Once the Yankee outfield is healthy, Brown can compete with Hicks for playing time.
The Yankees Need to Bet Big
It would be easy for the Yankees to send down Volpe, keep Donaldson and maybe find a buyer for Isaiah Kiner-Falefa. They are a naturally cautious team. Donaldson is still an effective, if diminished, major league player. Torres is an above-average major leaguer. Volpe doesn’t have a lot of time at Triple-A. This same roster brought them to the ALCS in 2022. They will have improved in center after Harrison Bader returns, and at shortstop with Peraza. That roster almost always makes the playoffs, and usually wins the division. If they get hit with the injury bug, they have a full layer of depth to cover.
But I don’t think it wins a World Series. Aaron Judge is probably going to follow-up the best season of all time. While some of the old veterans may bounce back, on average the group will probably show its age. The window isn’t closed, but it isn’t wide open either.
But what if Volpe and Peraza are really good? Let’s say the Yankees take a risk and bet on the young guys, and the bet pays off. Both are Rookie of the Year contenders. Peraza hits something like a .320 wOBA with great defense. Volpe proves to be the star he looks like, posting a .360 wOBA, leading off with lots of stolen bases and strong defense at second. That team can win the 2023 World Series, and contend with up-and-coming teams like Baltimore, Seattle and Toronto deep into Aaron Judge’s decline years.
It’s a risky move. One or both of them could disappoint. An injury could push Kiner-Falefa or Cabrera into a full-time infield role. Torres could finally have that breakout season that we’ve all been waiting for. Donaldson could rebound. Risk is necessary for reward. I would forgive the Yankees if the risk doesn’t work well. I wouldn’t forgive them if they waste Aaron Judge’s peak years by supporting him with another mediocre cast of veterans. Sometimes you have to swing for the fences.