After 10 seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, the organization declined outfielder Kevin Kiermaier’s option last winter and the defensive-minded product was a free agent for the first time in his career.
He would later sign a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays and had a great bounce-back campaign, posting a .265 average with 35 extra-base hits to the tune of a .741 OPS.
On the field, Kiermaier continued his strong showing in center field, amassing an 18 DRS and a 13 Outs Above Average while securing his fourth Gold Glove Award and providing some much-needed outfield defense for the Blue Jays.
For a second consecutive season, Kiermaier heads into the winter without a team but that will likely be short-lived considering the Indiana product produced a strong season while staying healthy for a majority of the season (he had a quick IL stint in August due to a cut on his elbow).
Let’s take a look on some potential landing spots for the veteran outfielder this winter.
Toronto Blue Jays
Considering the Blue Jays spent the 2022-2023 offseason looking to improve their defense, it only makes that the front office brings back one of the best defensive-minded outfielders in the game. He would slot right back in center field with Daulton Varsho working left field and platooning with the former Arizona Diamondback to limit his workload during the season and keep him healthy for the long haul.
As well, Kiermaier batting from the left side is a benefit for the Blue Jays, as the club only boasts Varsho and Cavan Biggio as their left-handed hitting contingent barring Spencer Horwitz and/or Nathan Lukes securing a spot on the active roster out of Spring Training.
His first season with the Jays was met with success and the Jays fanbase grew attached to the former Rays outfielder, making the signing makes sense from a playing standpoint and for the fans.
At 34 years old, the Jays could give Kiermaier a multi-year deal and afford to do so with Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt, and Hyun Jin Ryu’s contracts off the books, but it will be interesting to see if the outfielder is interested in playing on turf again.
Earlier in the season, Kiermaier did make a comment about potentially looking to playing on grass, noting his body feels better playing on the different surface, so that could deter the Parkland College alum from returning to Toronto.
New York Yankees
Interestingly enough, towards the end of the 2023 season, Kiermaier made a comment to the media regarding his love of playing in New York and Yankee Stadium, which bodes well considering his desire to play on natural grass.
In terms of fit, the Yankees have a spot open in center field considering they dropped Harrison Bader towards the end of the 2023 season and the club used nine different players in the role last season. Factor in that top prospect Jasson Domínguez recently underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss a good chunk of the season, and signing Kiermaier makes even more sense for the Bronx Bombers.
Batting from the left side and a pull hitter to boot, Kiermaier would surely benefit from the short porch at Yankee Stadium and brings some plus speed to the batting order as well.
The devil in the details will be whether the club is willing to go for a multi-year deal with Kiermaier, as the club could prioritize working with Domínguez or one of their other prospects in the long-term, although the veteran outfielder is no stranger to the one-year deal.
The Yankees are likely the best fit for Kiermaier at the moment and considering his desire to remain in the AL East, this deal seems like a slam dunk in the making.
Last season, the Cubs brought in Cody Bellinger on a one-year deal and reaped the rewards, as the former Dodgers outfielder produced at the plate (.307 average with 26 home runs) and was one of the top players on the team.
Considering Bellinger is one of the top free agents this winter, should the Cubs strike out on bringing back the outfielder, they could go for one of the next best options in Kiermaier.
For the Cubs, adding Kiermaier brings additional outfield depth to a Cubs organization that has Pete Crow-Armstrong looking to take over the role. Having Kiermaier on the team provides some additional depth to help ease the top prospect into a full-time position and also gives the Cubs some plus defense in the outfield as well to go with a left-handed bat in the lineup.