At the end of the 2023 campaign, multiple big time contributors of the Toronto Blue Jays hit the open market. So far, none of them have signed elsewhere, but the latest rumblings are that one of them is returning to the Jays.
According to MLB insider Mark Feinsand, the Blue Jays are re-signing center fielder Kevin Kiemaier to a one-year contract. Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith followed up by saying that the deal is for one year and is going to be $10.5M with incentives.
Kiermaier, 33, was an excellent fit on the Jays last year in what was his first north of the border. The long-time Tampa Bay Ray was as advertised as he remained one of the best defenders in baseball while also bringing a surprisingly strong bat to play as well.
In 129 games - the most he's appeared in since 2019 - Kiermaier recorded 35 extra-base hits with 36 runs driven in, 14 stolen bases, a .265 batting average and 104 OPS+. In nearly every offensive category this was the best season he has had since all the way back in 2017.
On defense, there's really only one word for Kiermaier's level of play: elite. The slick-fielding outfielder once again finished near the top of the league in most defensive metrics; finishing in the 98th percentile in OAA and 95th in Arm Strength. The 2.2 dWAR he posted was the best he's had since 2017 as well.
Bringing Kiermaier back is a huge move for the Blue Jays. This is a team that has missed out on most of their main targets this offseason and has needed a "win" in the worst way. His return should push Daulton Varsho back to left field, which means the Jays will once again have one of the very best defensive units in all of baseball.
Last season, the Jays went all in on their defense-first approach. Depending on who you ask, this either worked to perfection, or failed miserably. The offensive drop-off was rather obvious, but the fact of the matter is that no baseballs are landing in the outfield with Varsho, Kiermaier and Springer from left to right. This will ultimately do nothing but help the Jays win ballgames.
Adding Kiermaier back should be the first of multiple moves on the horizon for Toronto. A bat-first option who can function as their designated hitter on most days should be a priority. Jorge Soler and J.D. Martinez represent two of the best remaining options on the free agent market.