The Blue Jays 2022 season ended, in part, due to a defensive miscommunication between Bo Bichette and George Springer in game two of the AL Wild Card against the Seattle Mariners. That, compounded with plenty of defensive miscues over the past few seasons seems to have lit a fire under the Jays' front office, as they've since gone and acquired two of baseball's premiere defensive outfielders in Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier.
I think to say the Blue Jays' outfield had struggled defensively over the past few seasons would be an understatement. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left field, despite being nominated for two Gold Gloves, consistently struggled, never finishing above the 29th percentile for Statcast's Outs Above Average.
Teoscar Hernández in right field, certainly improved over his time in Toronto, but finished in the 14th percentile for OAA in 2022, and never showed much upside defensively. Their struggles led to the team acquiring Jackie Bradley Jr. last season to work as a defensive replacement, despite him recently being one of the league's worst hitters.
Likely in response to this, following the Teoscar Hernandez trade, the Blue Jays went out and signed Kevin Kiermaier, a three-time Gold Glove center fielder, who's widely regarded as one of the best defenders on the planet. In the seasons where he's qualified in the Statcast Era, he has never finished below the 98th percentile for OAA and has been in the top 98 percent four times.
Far more recently, the Blue Jays traded for Daulton Varsho from the Diamondbacks. We've already discussed the full details of the trade on Jays Journal, but for the purposes of this article, the Blue Jays have added yet another elite outfield glove.
In 2022, Varsho's first full year in the majors, he was nominated for the NL Gold Glove in right field and finished in the 99th percentile for OAA, playing in both right and center field (with some time at catcher but that's not relevant right now).
In the Statcast Era (since 2016), Kevin Kiermaier leads all outfielders in OAA, while Varsho led the majors in that stat in 2022. These two, in addition to George Springer who finished in the 76th percentile for outs above average in 2022, should give the Blue Jays one of baseball's top defensive outfields.
Outfield defense can make or break a team and has been integral to the success of consistent contenders like the Dodgers and Red Sox in recent years. The Blue Jays have been snake bitten by poor outfield defense in the past, so to go from below average to elite in the course of an offseason is huge. They'll be plenty of time to analyze the full implications of the Jays' offseason moves but in terms of defense, there's no question these moves have improved the team immensely.