Kevin Kiermaier is back, after signing a one-year contract worth $10.5M. Kiermaier's (re)addition to the Toronto Blue Jays proved to be a game-changer, both defensively and offensively.
Acquired for his exceptional outfield skills, Kiermaier's glove work in centre field immediately bolstered the Blue Jays' defence, transforming their outfield into one of the best in the game. After a solid first season with the Blue Jays in which he hit .265 with eight home runs, he also brought home his fourth Gold Glove Award. Now, returning for a second campaign with the club, the soon to be 34-year-old is aiming to have the best season of his 11-year career, stating how happy he is with his physical health and the work he’s been putting in in order to generate a more powerful swing.
The Blue Jays have clearly put an emphasis on defense over the past two offseasons, acquiring Daulton Varsho from the Diamondbacks, re-signing Kiermaier and adding another former Gold Glover in Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Kiermaier's veteran leadership and playoff experience also proved invaluable as the Blue Jays attempt to make a deep postseason run once again. His impact went beyond statistics; he brought a winning mentality and a contagious intensity that helped propel the Blue Jays into the postseason.
It’s clear that Kiermaier always intended on returning to the Blue Jays for the 2024 season, and has his sights set on improving from what was a fairly productive 2023 season. He’s stated, “I want to have the best offensive year I’ve had in my whole career. I want to win another Gold Glove. I want to be the best player I can be. I want to unlock my potential.” He also said that he is motivated physically and mentally, and is eager to prove all the teams that were not interested in his services wrong by putting together a career season.
Nobody is expecting Kiermaier to become an elite offensive player at this point in his career, but his defense, leadership and ability to hit in key situations are what make him the valuable asset that he is. With the addition of Kiner-Falefa and his ability to play all over the diamond, Kiermaier’s playing time, especially when facing a left-handed pitcher, is not guaranteed. Either way, it will be tough to sit the best defensive centre fielder of the last decade at any given point.
The team is still in need of a strong offensive presence in the lineup, though all-world defensive players do not grow on trees. Signing the exact same one-year, $10.5M deal that the Mets gave Harrison Bader, the contract seems very fair for both parties. Both outfielders have pretty much identical offensive production since 2017, though Kiermaier has 38 more Defensive Runs Saved in that same time span.
The leadership and veteran presence of KK can not be measured with statistics, but can be seen during the season when his teammates inevitably have struggles throughout the season. He brings an uplifting spirit in the dugout and the clubhouse that is irreplaceable. The lineups are yet to be confirmed, obviously though Kiermaier should be the everyday centerfielder, at least while a right-hander is on the mound. John Schneider could choose to slide Daulton Varsho into centre field and try Isiah Kiner-Falefa in left field when facing a southpaw. As of right now, Kiermaier is poised to start the season as the everyday centre fielder once again, and nobody is more excited for his return than he is.