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Blue Jays Roundtable: Thoughts on the Kiermaier and Kiner-Falefa signings and what comes next
1 month ago
The Toronto Blue Jays finally made a big league move this offseason, bringing back Kevin Kiermaier on a similar one-year deal that they inked with the veteran outfielder last year. Kiermaier continued to showcase his elite defensive ability last year and now forms a solid trio with Daulton Varsho and George Springer in the outfield heading into the 2024 season. On top of that, the Jays also inked Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a two-year deal, bringing in the defensive-minded utility player on a deal worth $15 million.
With Kiermaier returning to the fold, Blue Jays Nation hosted another roundtable amongst the writers and looked at the following three questions:
- What do you think of the Kiermaier signing?
- What do you think of the IKF signing?
- What is next for the Blue Jays in the offseason following these two deals?
1) I do not like the signing. Kiermaier only provides value as a CF. The Jays have a BETTER CF in Daulton Varsho, so playing KK in centre field and Varsho in left field destroys Varsho’s value. When you evaluate the impact of a player on a team, you can not look at the player’s WAR in isolation – you need to look at the incremental value. KK’s incremental value might well be negative.
2) I do not like the IKF signing in a vacuum. But if it makes it possible for the Jays to move Espinal/Biggio/Barger/etc in a more focused deal (such as for a Triolo) then filling the hole before the hole exists is a good move and I am completely in favour
3) What is next? I fear that the Jays will stop looking for another OF (other than a 4th OF) now, which will leave them in the same predicament as last year – too much leather and not enough lumber.
1) I think the signing is fine in a vacuum, but given the team structure, I like it less. The idea behind the Varsho trade was that he would ultimately be the everyday centre-fielder. His bat doesn’t play in left field, and yes, he is an elite defender out there, but with this team, you really would like to have a big bat out there. At the same time, Kiermaier is a great player who hit really well last season and seemed to fit in well with this group. If he can hit like he did last season, he will once again be a valuable player for this team.
2) As far as IKF, I think he’s again a reasonable signing provided he’s a backup. He’s a great defender at multiple positions which is something this front office highly values. He can fill that Merrifield role, but he can play shortstop, which means the team can move on from Espinal. He can’t hit a lick, so if he ends up starting in any situation that isn’t covering for an injury, then I like this move a lot less.
3) Going forward I have a feeling this front office is going to run it back with the team from last season simply and hope for the offense to rebound. This signing takes them out on Bellinger I would think. I could see them re-signing Chapman, and even bringing back Belt if he doesn’t end up retiring.
1) Concerning Kiermaier, I agree with the view expressed by Jim.
2) On the assumption that Toronto will make more impactful acquisitions during this offseason, I like the IKF signing. In the utility-infielder role, I prefer IKF to Espinal because IKF is superior defensively at third and more established at shortstop (2,691 innings compared to Espinal’s 803 innings). The two-year, USD 15 million IKF deal is a tad pricey, but not egregiously.
3) Regarding what’s next, the Jays should focus on good bats with power. They need batters with high wOBA, SLG, ISO and OBP metrics to address the 2023 run-scoring issues.
If Kiermaier is pencilled in as the everyday centerfielder, Toronto should target J.D. Martinez, the best power hitter available. The challenge is replacing Chapman with a better bat than Chapman offers.
If Kiermaier is not envisaged as an everyday player, then Toronto could go a little downmarket for DH (Hoskins) and add Pham in LF. This duo assumes that Toronto has a set budget aside that would be exceeded if Bellinger was signed.
1) Kevin Kiermaier’s signing this offseason is a confusing yet positive signing for the Blue Jays. Given the general weakness of the position player market, the Jays are making a smart decision by betting on Kiermaier’s strong outfield defence and his serviceable offence. But Kiermaier’s signing is a bit of a head-scratcher because the Jays have to address the lack of power and Kiermaier isn’t exactly going to be the powerhouse that will hit 20 – 35 home runs.
At best, the Jays have completed their outfield picture for 2024 and will need to bring in a third baseman and a fourth outfielder to add further to their offence. It’s safe to say that the Jays will have a solid defensive team in the outfield once again next season, while the power can be a question since Kiermaier, along with Daulton Varsho and George Springer, weren’t exactly able to provide that in 2023.
2) The most logical move after the Kiermaier signing would have been adding a consistent bat to the lineup, but the Jays took a different route and signed Isiah Kiner-Falefa (IKF from here on out) to a two-year deal instead. This is the most confounding move from fans’ perspective because the Jays already had a rather crowded infield with Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal and Davis Schneider, vying for more playing time.
There’s no doubt that IKF brings in more defensive insurance to the team but his offensive production has also been in question for a couple of years. For the Jays to justify IKF’s value, the Jays either would have to help him discover his “power stroke” or use him as a super-utility player.
Either way, it’s almost certain that the Jays will have to trade either Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal or Davis Schneider to address the infield logjam they created. But most of all, the Jays’ front office has more work to do when it comes to bringing in an actual power bat to the offence one way or another.
3) It’s going to be a heck of a hard offseason for the Jays’ front office, especially after their attempt at signing Shohei Ohtani because nothing will ever live up to that level of expectations. Re-signing Kevin Kiermaier was smart and signing IKF was confusing but the front office will have to bring in either a fourth outfielder or a full-time infielder (second baseman or third baseman) to address the lack of power.
Getting Ohtani or Yoshinobu Yamamoto would have been amazing but those signings alone don’t guarantee the championship trophy. Sometimes, the most unexpected moves can be the key to winning it all and the fans may not be able to see that right away. The Jays will have to justify the method to their madness this offseason, ideally as soon as possible.
1) The Kiermaier signing seemed to be one out of desperation. KK was a free agent without any real urge to return to Toronto from both ends of the table, player and club. KK offers defensive ability and that’s purely it. It would be amazing to see contribution on the base running side, however asking for offensive performance is asking too much. To revert to a similar offensive outfield from this failure of a season is not ideally moving on for better.
2) The Kiner-Falefa signing produces mixed feelings for me. His numbers weren’t anywhere close to impressive and his defensive capabilities at demanding positions such as third base isn’t all that pretty. The plus to IKF is his grind nature; he will go to work at his best effort. IKF knows the AL East and its arms, and he’s able to contribute on the base paths, something we lack in Toronto.
3) Going forward into 2024 has left little option but to try again with this squad and hope that the offence sparks, the rotation stays on point, and the bullpen stays deep. The Blue Jays will have to depend on all the silence bats of 2023 to wake up and for some mid-season trades for ammo toward a postseason run.
1) I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it.
If we’re talking solely about Kiermaier, I have nothing negative to say. He put up his best offensive season since 2017, he won his fourth Gold Glove, and his only stint on the IL was a fluke injury thanks to Fenway Park’s outfield fence. What keeps me from loving this signing is putting it about the team and its needs.
The obvious situation that Toronto was in was to slide Varsho to CF and then add a bat-first outfielder. That could still be possible if, say, Springer is the full-time DH or Kiermaier is OK with being a fourth outfielder, but I’m not confident in either of those things being true. I mean, why keep Kiermaier’s defence on the bench? We know what we’re getting in the outfield with Kiermaier; his elite defence is something any team would prefer to have. If Toronto can get the same (or better) offensive season as well as the same (or better) availability, then the Blue Jays can’t complain. Again, there’s nothing negative to say about signing Kiermaier himself – I just don’t think it made Toronto any better from where they were last season.
2) As odd as it may sound, the order in which the Kiermaier and IKF signings occurred doesn’t make this deal too attractive. It almost gives an “Okay, we get Kiermaier’s defense back, but the big offensive signing will come next, right?” Nope, it’s another glove-first player. I’d imagine now the Blue Jays will look to move one of Cavan Biggio, Davis Schneider, or Santiago Espinal (and I certainly hope it is not Schneider).
Much like my sentiments with Kiermaier, I don’t hate or love this trade. IKF is a fine player, but it still doesn’t move the needle.
3) I haven’t been sold on the big free-agent names in this class. For instance, I like Bellinger, but not for $250 million. I even took the glass-half-full approach with Ohtani, gladly thinking that we don’t owe someone $700 million over 10 years. I wouldn’t want the Blue Jays reaching.
With that being said, I still want to see a better bat signed to this team. I’ll like the Kiermaier and IKF signings a lot more if there is at least one reinforcement for the offence coming, whether by free agency or by trade. I think the most realistic thing for Toronto to do is bring back Matt Chapman on a short-term deal and sign Jorge Soler to a 3/48 deal (or thereabouts). I also like JD Martinez or Adam Duvall as other DH bats.
Again, this free agent class (outside of Ohtani) is very shallow, and I think the Blue Jays will be heavily relying on Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alejandro Kirk, and Daulton Varsho to have bounce-back years in 2024. But there has to be a middle ground between that and running last year’s team back.
1) I don’t mind the Kevin Kiermaier signing in the slightest, mostly because I think the Blue Jays benefit with another left-handed bat in the lineup and the outfield within the organization is weak at the moment. The club cannot guarantee on signing a high-profile free agent like Bellinger to take on an increased role and Kiermaier also brings plus speed on the base paths, something the club will surely miss with Whit Merrifield no longer in the picture.
The obvious downside is that Varsho likely sticks in left field and he can easily provide plus value in centre field from a defensive standpoint, so there is some drawbacks. Although, Varsho will get his fair share of platooning in centre field with rest days and pitching matchups, so it will be interesting to see how that shakes up (likely with another transaction waiting in the wings).
2) Bringing in Kiner-Falefa is honestly just confusing as hell. There’s nothing wrong with IKF, he is a tremendous athlete, can play multiple positions, and has a great glove but the Blue Jays can throw a stone and hit five guys on the roster who can already do that.
Overall, this move screams that the Jays are not ready to fully trust a prospect on the infield with increased responsibility, whether that be Martinez, Schneider, Barger, or even Ernie Clement. The answer doesn’t appear to be Espinal, who has certainly struggled since the 2022 All-Star break, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the club moves him or Biggio to answer some of the holes still left on the roster.
I think what appears to be the most confounding of this move is that it doesn’t solve anything unless the Jays view IKF as the full-time third baseman, which is fine in its own right, but doesn’t solve the offensive issue. Mind you, the Jays need Guerrero Jr., Kirk, and Springer to bounce back next year and a healthy Danny Jansen will help, but that’s not enough in the AL East. I doubt this will be the last move but until there is more clarity, the signing is just confusing for what the club needs.
3) For what’s next, I don’t think this signing truly takes the Blue Jays out of the Bellinger sweepstakes just yet. The club has wanted to go with four outfielders in the past and got spoiled with Merrifield being able to play multiple positions. Bringing in Bellinger alleviates the concern related to the missing bat and adds another left-hand in the batter’s box for a right-handed dominant squad, which could go a long way (not to mention his 20+ home run power potential). Kiermaier is only around for one season and Bellinger would be in for a longer haul, as long as the deal value is within reason, it still makes sense if ownership appears willing
If signing Bellinger is out of the cards now, the Blue Jays likely pivot to a DH bat-first type of player and I would think a short-term deal for either Rhys Hoskins or J.D. Martinez would fit just right. Hoskins being brought in a “prove it” deal fits within the Jays narrative and seen past success while Martinez is the veteran bat with experience in the AL East, which after a strong campaign in Los Angeles last year, is hard to pass up.
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