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Blue Jays to sign Isiah Kiner-Falefa

The Blue Jays agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with Isiah Kiner-Falefaaccording to Robert Murray of FanSided (Link). The deal includes an additional $1 million in incentives, and it will become official when Kiner-Falefa passes a physical. Kiner-Falefa is represented by ALIGND.

Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove as the Rangers’ regular third baseman in 2020, but he hasn’t played much time since at the hot corner, as Texas has used him primarily at shortstop in 2021 and the Yankees did the same in 2022. last season, New York moved the IKF all around the diamond since Anthony Volpe took over as everyday shortstop, Kiner -Falefa accumulating significant playing time in center field (278 1/3 innings), left field (248 innings), back at third base (240 1/3 innings), right field (40 innings ), at shortstop (eight innings) and a single inning as a second baseman. Public defensive metrics were mixed on his work in the field, but Kiner-Falefa graded quite well as an infielder, particularly when returning to third base.

With Matt Chapman a free agent, it would appear the Blue Jays could install Kiner-Falefa as their regular third base option for the time being, giving the club at least a first-time starter with the gloves if Chapman signs elsewhere or a clearer deal is reached. established. -the cut starter cannot be found. That said, IKF is probably less of a replacement for Chapman than for Whit Merrifield, another right-handed hitter who was regularly deployed at second base and in the outfield. Kiner-Falefa adds even more versatility since Merrifield has played very little third base and no shortstop.

IKF is also a better defensive fit at third base than any of Toronto’s current infielders, such as Cavan Biggio, Davis Schneider, Santiago Espinal or Ernie Clement. Biggio is the only left-handed bat in this group, so it stands to reason that the Jays could trade one of the right-handed swingers now that Kiner-Falefa is on board. Adding a more experienced major leaguer also gives the Blue Jays more flexibility by giving more minor league evaluation time to top prospects Orelvis Martinez or Addison Barger, both of whom are expected to be in the Show at sometime in 2024 and could factor into the interior picture (especially at third base).

While Kiner-Falefa can work from a depth and glovework standpoint, he doesn’t represent much, if any, help to the Blue Jays’ broader need for offense. Kiner-Falefa hit .242/.306/.340 in 361 plate appearances with the Yankees last season, essentially matching his slash line of .261/.314/.346 in 2,415 career PA at the big league level. league. That translates to an 81 wRC+ – tied for the fourth-lowest among all players with over 2,000 PA since the start of the 2018 season.

The lack of offense has limited Kiner-Falefa to 3.8 fWAR over his six Major League seasons, despite his defensive contributions. He rarely strikes out, but despite making plenty of contact, IKF rarely makes hard contact, and he has little power to speak of with just 26 career homers.

A two-year, $15 million contract seems like a nice score for Kiner-Falefa given this lack of offense, but there was still plenty of interest in the utility man on the open market. The Brewers, Dodgers, Marlins and Yankees were all linked to Kiner-Falefa in rumors, and Toronto’s interest in IKF was first cited by Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi earlier this month .

Between Kiner-Falefa today and yesterday’s Kevin Kiermaier deal, the Blue Jays have swung into action after a rather quiet offseason caused by the team’s focus on pursuing Shohei Ohtani. The Jays have remained at least speculatively linked to a number of other players besides Ohtani, of course, as general manager Ross Atkins’ front office regularly vets virtually every available free agent or trade target for the sake of diligence reasonable. While Kiner-Falefa and Kiermaier should help preserve the Jays’ excellent defense starting in 2023, the next step has to be offensive touch, whether at DH or for extra help in the field or outfield.

More soon…

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