Infield signings around the league prove Blue Jays massively overpaid on one of their free agents

Is the IKF deal worse than fans anticipated?

Kiner-Falefa with the New York Yankees vs the Boston Red Sox
Kiner-Falefa with the New York Yankees vs the Boston Red Sox / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

After anticipating power additions to the lineup, fans of the Toronto Blue Jays were puzzled when Ross Atkins inked Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a two-year deal earlier this offseason. The contract itself was even more puzzling: a $15M deal for a below-average utility player? While the contract seemed poor at the time, recent signings of two other free agents are proving to show this deal is even worse than once imagined.

IKF entered the league with the Rangers back in 2018 and has spent his time primarily as a utility player, even winning a Gold Glove at third base in 2020. In 2021, he was traded to the Yankees, assuming a consistent shortstop role. After the call-up of Yankees top prospect Anthony Volpe, IKF spent the majority of his time in the outfield, split between center and right field.

While he was better than expected in the outfield, IKF's bat never seemed to catch up. In 115 games in 2023, Kiner-Falefa slashed a weak .242/.306/.340 with 6 HRs, accumulating an 82 wRC+. Although Kiner-Falefa offers the Jays flexibility around the field, the recent signings of Gio Urshela and Tim Anderson show the Jays significantly overvalued this versatility.

Recent signings around the league indicate IKF may be vastly overpaid

Gio Urshela

Urshela came up with the Guardians in 2015 and has mainly bounced around the league via trades and one-year deals, even spending a brief amount of time with the Jays in 2018. While he was never considered to have generational talent, he's been a fairly solid player. His best year came in 2019, where he hit over .300 with 21 HRs and a 133 OPS+ in 132 games with the Yankees. In his most recent year with the Angels, he still seemingly outperformed Kiner-Falefa.

Urshela hit .299/.329/.374, good for a wRC+ of 92; ten points higher than IKF. Urshela played third for the Angels, where he accumulated an impressive 6 DRS in only 270 innings. While Urshela has his injury concerns, he is still a better gamble than Kiner-Falefa, especially for a bench role. The Detroit Tigers were able to ink Urshela to a relatively late 1-year, $1.5M deal, a steal considering Kiner-Falefa costed $6M more plus an additional year.

Tim Anderson

Anderson is perhaps a bit more polarizing of a player than Urshela, but still worth examining. The former first-rounder came up with the White Sox in 2016 and broke out in 2019, winning the AL batting title with an impressive .335/.357.508 slash line.

Anderson saw immense success in the next few seasons, earning All-Star nods in 2021 and 2022 and a top-10 MVP finish in 2020. Things went south for him mid-season in 2022, however, as he suffered a series of injuries that would ultimately derail his past progress.

After missing the start of 2023, Anderson would return to the White Sox only to perform incredibly poorly. He hit an atrocious .245/.286/.296 and was only able to muster up one HR in 123 games. This led Anderson to ultimately leave the White Sox and accept a cheap, one-year, $5M deal with the Marlins. But while Anderson certainly had his series of woes in 2023, he is slated to be a strong bounce-back candidate in 2024. Considering he had three strong years before being sidetracked by injury, the Blue Jays should have entertained the possibility of Anderson on the team. While he might not reach his 2019 peak, Anderson certainly has a higher offensive ceiling than Kiner-Falefa and could have made a decent impact on a Jays lineup needing offensive strength.

Sure, IKF offers decent defensive versatility, with experience in positions all around the field. But with other players such as Davis Schneider and Cavan Biggio, who both offer infield and outfield depth, the Blue Jays seemingly made a mistake inking IKF to a two-year deal. While Urshela and Anderson won't be x-factors in their new teams' success, the Blue Jays could have made a better decision by taking a flyer on these two players instead of Kiner-Falefa.

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