The Tuesday Discussion: Too Many Infielders?
December 20, 2022
This week we proposed the following to our writers:
As 2022 winds down, the Yankees currently have a plethora of players for three positions: Gleyber Torres, D.J. LeMahieu, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe. How should they proceed with these players? Who should the starting players be? Who, if any, should be traded? What would you do if you were the General Manager?
Here are their responses:
*** Lincoln Mitchell - This is the kind of hot stove question that keeps us going through the winter. I am not quite sure how I would use these players, but would start with the following assumptions. 1) Donaldson and IKF are possibly useful players but will not be impact players; 2) We cannot assume that LeMahieu will be healthy and in top form when the season begins. 3) Cabrera is a good player, but best used off the bench filling in as needed. 4) Peraza and Volpe have real upsides but may not be ready yet; 5) Torres may be the most reliable of the bunch, but is also the most likely to be traded. I do not believe in making major decisions based on spring training, so am not going to suggest waiting to see who plays well and poorly then. Instead, I would start by penciling in Peraza as the starting shortstop. He is clearly an upgrade from IKF there and is probably a better defender at the position that Volpe. LeMahieu is the big wild card here. If he is healthy, then I would start him at third and keep Torres at second unless another team offers something very good in return. I would trade IKF and Donaldson for whatever I could get-and if I could get nothing, I would consider releasing them. Cabrera would be on the team as a bench player and would see a fair amount of time in the infield and the outfield. This leaves Volpe. I would keep Volpe on the team and use him at DH and then explore moving either to the outfield or second base. Volpe is the kind of player who has the tools and work ethic to do that. However, if LeMahieu is not healthy, I would do basically the same thing but keep either Donaldson or IKF and play them and Cabrera at third.
Paul Semendinger - I addressed some of this in an article the other day, but, like everything, I'm always revisiting my thoughts and this fleshes out my ideas a bit more.
For consistency, I'd rather have D.J. LeMahieu at second base than Gleyber Torres, but I think the Yankees will need Torres' power in the middle of the lineup so I'd stick with him at second base. Gleyber is also younger, and over the next many years, obviously has the bigger upside.
For shortstop, I'd play either Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza - whoever proves to me more ready. My gut says that Peraza should start and Volpe should get more time to develop at Triple-A.
I don't think Josh Donaldson is tradeable and because of his defense, and the hope that he can find a way to reverse his declining bat, I think he'll be fine at third base.
This leave the Yankees with Oswaldo Cabrera, Isiah KIner-Falefa, and D.J. LeMahieu as reserve players. The best player of that bunch is D.J. LeMahieu. Assuming he's healthy, I would seek to trade him. He is a solid hitter who plays very good defense. I have to assume there is a market for him and the Yankees could use this market to bring back a high quality player.
I believe Cabrera and IKF can serve well as the reserve infielders at any of the positions and that the Yankees can figure out a player to back-up Anthony Rizzo at first base. IFK serves, also, as an emergency catcher which I like.
I have seen a lot of talk about starting all of Peraza, Cabrera, and Volpe to begin the season. That is not something I would do. I think that's too many young and unproven players to begin the season on a team that is going to be vying for a World Championship.
Cary Greene - In short, I'd like to see Torres and Hicks traded, Donaldson unfortunately retained for the season and Volpe be made the shortstop at his earliest ability to do so. I don't think Peraza is the answer at shortstop. Kiner-Falefa should also be traded ideally, perhaps at the deadline though. (I'll have more on this later this week.)
Mike Whiteman - There's obviously a logjam in the infield, particularly at shortstop and second base. There's a clear opening in left field, and there is always a need for pitching depth. I would be willing to entertain offers for either Gleyber Torres and Oswald Peraza to upgrade in other areas. No matter who is dealt, there will still be multiple options at both positions.
Many folks would love to see the Yanks send away Josh Donaldson, but I don't see him and his salary going anywhere.
I can't understate the value that Oswaldo Cabrera brings to this situation. He can really plug in at third, second, and shortstop in a pinch. This really gives Brian Cashman the license to be aggressive and creative if the opportunity presents itself.
Tim Kabel - This is a complicated question. I can’t look at the infield in a vacuum. In other words, the open spot in left field, could impact the infield rotation. At this point, if the Yankees don’t acquire someone else to play left field, Oswaldo Cabrera would be the most logical choice. That would remove him from the infield equation.
Assuming that is the case, I would construct the infield as follows: Anthony Rizzo would be the starting first baseman. Anthony Volpe would be given every opportunity to seize the job at second base. I would take the same approach at shortstop with Oswald Peraza. The middle infield would be handled by two highly regarded prospects.
If DJ LeMahieu is healthy, he would be the most logical choice to play third base on a regular basis.
I would trade Josh Donaldson, eating some of his contract or including a lower level prospect if I had to. He simply needs to go.
Gleyber Torres also would be traded, primarily to open the spot and second base for Volpe. If he could bring back a quality leftfielder, I would bring Oswaldo Cabrera in from the outfield to play third base. LeMahieu, would then play the revolving role he was initially brought into do, when and if he’s healthy.
If I could not acquire an leftfielder, and LeMahieu was not healthy, I would play Isaiah Kiner-Falefa at third base, until LeMahieu is able to return to the lineup. After that, Kiner-Falefa would be the infield back up and emergency third catcher.