Kiner-Falefa joins Blue Jays on a $15M, 2-year deal as Yankees drag feet

Yankees utility star Isiah Kiner-Falefa at Yankee Stadium
Michael Bennington
Thursday December 28, 2023

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Utility star Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who scripted a comeback story with the Yankees in 2023, decided to join the Blue Jays on Tuesday. He agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the Toronto team. The contract also carries an extra $1 million in performance bonuses.

Kiner-Falefa’s narrative of redemption unfolds as he makes his way north. Initially acquired in the 2022 trade involving Gary Sanchez, he faced challenges as the Yankees’ starting shortstop. The emergence of top prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza during spring training in 2023 heightened competition, potentially jeopardizing Kiner-Falefa’s role. His early-season struggles, marked by a .182 batting average and .440 OPS in the initial 30 games, seemed to confirm this uncertain fate.

Yet, Kiner-Falefa refused to be written off. Embracing a transition to the outfield, he experienced a remarkable offensive turnaround. From May 16th to August 14th, he became a consistent contributor, boasting a .293/.365/.439 slash line and an impressive 125 wRC+, outperforming even Aaron Judge during that timeframe.

Yankees utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa

Kiner-Falefa won back Yankees fans

Despite the Yankees falling short of the playoffs with an 82-80 record, Kiner-Falefa’s resurgence left a lasting impact. Expressing a desire to remain in the Bronx, he caught the attention of Toronto. The Blue Jays’ enticing offer proved irresistible, drawing the multi-talented player northward for a fresh start and the opportunity to play a pivotal role in their postseason aspirations.

The Blue Jays, eager for a coveted World Series title, have secured a proven winner in Kiner-Falefa. His defensive flexibility, unexpected offensive capabilities, and infectious work ethic are poised to energize the crowds at the Rogers Centre, providing a crucial dimension to their roster. While the Yankees may ponder what could have been, they can only observe as Kiner-Falefa, once considered a bench player, embarks on a new chapter in Toronto.

Yankees' Isiah Kiner-Falefa steals a base during the game against the White Sox on August 8, 2023, in Chicago.
AP Photo/Erin Hooley

He conveyed through Max Goodman of NJ Advance Media that whenever he wore the pinstripes, departing without a championship ring felt unacceptable. Kiner-Falefa expressed a strong desire to win, feeling a sense of unfinished business with the team. Despite experiencing personal success earlier in the year, the disappointment of concluding the season without reaching the postseason felt like a letdown to him.

It seems that Kiner-Falefa won’t have the chance to address unfinished matters with the Yankees. Instead, he can anticipate taking his enhanced performance into the 2024 season with the Toronto Blue Jays.

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