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Looking at where the Blue Jays will likely pivot following the Kiermaier and Kiner-Falefa deals

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
2 months ago
The Toronto Blue Jays have been one of the most active teams on the free-agent market these past few days, signing outfielder Kevin Kiermaier to a one-year pact and reportedly inking utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a two-year deal worth $15 million (with added incentives).
Both moves are somewhat puzzling at the surface, as the Jays don’t necessarily need another centre fielder like Kiermaier with Daulton Varsho on the squad although his elite defence and left-handed bat will bode well on the squad, especially since he won the fanbase over last season as well. With Kiner-Falefa, the Jays add another utility player into the fold alongside a smorgasbord of similar types in Santiago Espinal, Cavan Biggio, Davis Schneider, and Ernie Clement. That move is more puzzling of the two, as the club boasts quite a few “glove-first” type of players and after struggling to a middle-of-the-pack offensive output last year, Kiner-Falefa certainly doesn’t move that needle.
Overall, the Jays have added two roster players and while they aren’t high-profile targets like Shohei Ohtani or Yoshinobu Yamamoto, both are chipping away at the holes left behind with Merrifield, Brandon Belt, and Matt Chapman heading to free agency. While both will play a role on the big league squad this year, there are still some holes left on the squad that need to be addressed and the front office still needs to find a way to add some offensive firepower to the Blue Jays lineup.

Predicting the next move for the Blue Jays after signing Kiermaier and Kiner-Falefa

From the get-go, the Blue Jays have mostly been tied to bringing back Chapman and outfielder Cody Bellinger, a player the Jays pursued last offseason as well before he signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.
With the addition of Kiner-Falefa, it seems unlikely the Jays are going to be bringing back Chapman, especially since he will likely receive a deal of around $150 million and his bat was a rollercoaster last year. While fielding is an elite trait of the California product, his bat faded heavily as the season wore on last year and drew the ire of Jays fans who have been debating all winter on whether the club should bring him back or not compared to the other options out there. That’s not to say the door is fully shut on bringing Chapman back but it seems less likely than it was the day before yesterday compared to other permanent third-base solutions at a lower payroll hit.
Bellinger, on the other hand, checks quite a few boxes for what the Blue Jays need but is the most expensive option of the group.
Represented by superagent Scott Boras, the outfielder is looking to ink a long-term deal worth $200 million, which comes with considerable risk considering the 28-year-old struggled with Los Angeles before being non-tendered last winter. He bounced back well with the Cubs to the tune of a .307 average with 26 home runs and a 133 OPS+ and bats from the left side, a bonus for a Jays squad that is heavily right-handed, but the risk will be there that he returns to his old ways and the club will be on the hook for a boat load of dead money. With the newest additions of Kiermaier and Kiner-Falefa, the jury is out on whether the Jays can muster a deal to bring Bellinger North of the border due to the financial commitment.
The theme remains the same regardless of Chapman or Bellinger, the Blue Jays need at least one bat before Spring Training rolls around, ideally two if the front office can find a way. The club does have a spot open for a full-time DH candidate but could benefit from a permanent third-base solution if the club wants to use Kiner-Falefa across the diamond.

Looking at free agent and trade options to improve the batting order

Free agent-wise, there are some strong contenders out there in Rhys Hoskins, Teoscar Hernández, J.D. Martinez, and Jorge Soler, all of whom make sense from a DH standpoint although they all swing from the right side.
Both Hoskins and Martinez are likely good for short-term deals, while Soler and Hernández for more for a deal over the two-year mark, given their respective ages, and with the 2023 season, Soler put forward (36 home runs and a .853 OPS). If the Jays are dead set on a left-hander, Joc Pederson, Carlos Santana (switch), Joey Votto, and Michael Brantley could be of interest as well, each with their own set of pros and cons at the end of the day. One-year deals have worked for the Blue Jays in recent memory (Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien) and gambling on another one-year contract with a player like Hoskins, Votto, or Brantley could pay massive dividends by season’s end (or blow up immensely).
While the Jays missed the boat on a Juan Soto trade, they could deal from their infield depth to land a veteran bat as well, using the likes of Espinal, Biggio, Spencer Horwitz, Damiano Palmegiani, and Addison Barger as potential trade chips. There are more arms available for trade compared to bats this winter but Willy Adames (Brewers), Max Kepler (Twins), Jorge Polanco (Twins), and Brandon Drury (Angels) are potential options that provide some offensive upside for the squad with each player close to free agency (within 1-2 years) and likely cost less in trade capital compared to other established veterans.
The deal has to make sense at the end of the day but trading for a bat may be the route to go, although there are numerous bats still available at this point in free agency and the front office could choose to wait it out before exploring a potential trade.
With the recent deals, the Blue Jays still need another bat or two, regardless of whether they sign another player from free agency or trade for a bat to help improve the lineup.
The current pitching corps is set up well to compete this season and while the current roster has defensive upside, the lineup could use some more firepower, especially if the likes of George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Alejandro Kirk struggle to produce in 2024. If the Jays are indeed out on signing a high-profile name like Bellinger or Chapman, there are plenty of veteran options to slot into the DH spot that could add some much-needed power for a team that produced just one run through two postseason games last year.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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