The Toronto Blue Jays broke their spell of inactivity this week by announcing the signings of a pair of prominent players who should play critical roles in 2023: starting pitcher Chris Bassitt and outfielder Kevin Kiermaier.
The financial terms of Kiermaier’s contract were not immediately released. Eventually, it was revealed that the Jays had signed the veteran to a one-year deal for nine million dollars.
That seems like a reasonable pact for an experienced player with considerable accomplishments but also one who’s coming off a season with just 63 games played. It’s fair to wonder how this signing will look a year or so from now, how can Kiermaier live up to or even exceed the value of his contract?
Kiermaier could make this move look very intelligent if he can replicate the production and ability to stay on the field that he showed earlier in his career.
His best season came in 2015 when he played in 151 games, hit .263 with 47 extra-base hits (25 doubles, 12 triples, and 10 home runs) stole 18 bases, and recorded a 7.1 bWAR. This also marked the first season Kiermaier was awarded a Gold Glove and he finished in the top-20 in AL MVP voting.
He followed that up with another solid season in 2016 (12 HR, .741 OPS, 21 steals) and captured the Gold Glove again.
Really, Kiermaier has always been a productive player with elite defensive skills, he’s had a problem staying healthy at times. He played in less than 100 games in both 2017 and 2018, although he did experience an uptick in power in ’17 with a career-high 15 homers in 98 games played.
Kiermaier just needs to avoid seasons like 2018, when he hit just .217, and the aforementioned 2022 season that saw him suit up for less the 40 percent of the Rays' games.
While a “typical” Kevin Kiermaier season; a batting average somewhere between .250 and .270, around 20 doubles, 10 homers, and 15-20 steals along with his usual sublime defense in centerfield would make this signing look like a smart one, an increase in production isn’t out of the question.
He’ll be motivated to prove he can still be a difference-maker on a contending team and Bue Jays hitting coach Guillermo Martinez will be eager to work with a new pupil and will encourage Kiermaier to drive and lift the ball more which could result in better power numbers.
He’s 32-years-old, and although he signed just a one-year deal, a resurgent season could see Kiermaier be a part of the Jays’ plans for the next several years.