Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Potential Early Season Trade Candidates to Avoid
By Noah Wright
Isiah Kiner-Falefa has a connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates already. He is a twice-removed second cousin to Hall Of Fame outfielder Ralph Kiner. However, that connection doesn't mean that the Pirates should pursue the New York Yankee infielder or give up anything beyond Quad-A-type depth for him. Neither does the Yankees selling low on IKF because of their promotion of top prospect Anthony Volpe means the Pirates should think about the infielder.
Kiner-Falefa is not a great batter. He’s only batted .267/.313/.344 with a .289 wOBA, and 85 wRC+. The only things of value he brings are a roughly league-average OBP, a strikeout rate of just 13.4%, and two consecutive 20+ stolen base seasons. But he only walks 5.2% of the time and hits for zero power. If his average dips below .260, any value he has as a base runner becomes zero.
Kiner-Falefa's .078 isolated slugging percentage the last two seasons is the fourth worst among batters with 800+ plate appearances. He also only has an 85.8 MPH exit velocity and a 29.2% hard-hit rate. But Kiner-Falefa is a shortstop. A league-average OBP with his ability to swipe bases is passable if he can be a force with the glove. But it's a mixed bag for Kiner-Falefa.
Sure, he's had two consecutive seasons with +10 defensive runs saved, but outs above average have painted him in a below-average light each season. Last year, he was in the 17th percentile of OAA and the 8th percentile the year before that. He's posted great numbers at third base, but he's far from a guy you want at the hot corner consistently. His days as a catcher are pretty much over outside of emergency duty (though he'd be a far better emergency option than Josh Van Meter). When IKF did catch, he was a poor defender, allowing eight passed balls in just 586 innings, being worth -16 defensive runs saved and -17.9 framing runs. The only positive of his days as a catcher was his 31% caught stealing rate.
There's not much difference between Kiner-Falefa, Kevin Newman (whom the Pirates traded this past off-season), and Tucupita Marcano. They all fit the low-power, okay batting average/OBP utility role. However, Marcano is at least a decent utility man who can play wherever the Pirates need him to. Sure, the Yankees have experimented with IKF in the outfield, but Marcano is already acquainted with moving between the infield and the outfield.