At the onset of the 2022-2023 offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays made the decision to sacrifice offense to shore up the team's defense. Immediately, Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., two poor defenders, were traded away. On the other end of that, Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier, two superb defensive outfielders, were brought aboard.
In the season opener at the Rogers Centre, Kiermaier immediately showed the Blue Jays what type of fit he'd be moving forward, as he robbed Detroit's Kerry Carpenter of a home run in the top of the second inning.
As the season marched on, the web gems never stopped. Kiermaier is easily one of the very best defensive center fielders to ever play the game, and he's already racking up the accolades early in this offseason.
Sports Info Solutions, a statistical hub for defensive analytics, has named Kiermaier as the Fielding Bible Award winner at center field. These have been handed out to the best players at each position for the past 18 years. To the surprise of nobody, this is the third time in his career that KK has brought home one of these awards.
On Kiermaier, SIS wrote, "[Kiermaier] won his 3rd Fielding Bible Award. He finished 2nd among center fielders with 18 Defensive Runs Saved, his most since recording 20 in 2017. Kiermaier made 92 catches on 110 opportunities on balls classified as deep, 11 more than the average center fielder would have made. Kiermaier joins Kevin Pillar as the only Blue Jays to win the Award for center field."
Interestingly, a quick look at the 2023 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) leaderboard shows that Kiermaier did not even lead the majors in DRS as a center fielder. That honor would go to Brenton Doyle of the Rockies. To make things even more confusing, Varsho had a total of 29 DRS on the season and missed out on the award to someone who had just 15.
Elsewhere on the diamond, old friend Gabriel Moreno, who played a key role in getting his Arizona Diamondbacks to the World Series, won the award at catcher.
For Kiermaier, this award is just the latest in a long, long string of hardware he has racked up for his play in center. The 33-year-old put up 2.2 dWAR (his highest since 2017) in 127 games on the grass this season and also finished in the 98th percentile in Outs Above Average (per Baseball Savant).
Moving forward, Kiermaier is set to hit free agency for the second time in his 11-year career. Last time he hit the open market, he settled for a one-year contract in Toronto. This time around, he is a candidate to earn a multi-year deal. We've spent so much time raving about his defense, but he also had a 104 OPS+ this year with a .265 batting average; both the highest he's had since back in 2017. The fact that he still swings a solid bat, paired with his Gold Glove-caliber defense, suggests that he'll earn a two or three-year contract in the coming weeks.