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Kevin Kiermaier agrees with the Blue Jays

TORONTO — In a holiday meeting, Kevin Kiermaier and the Blue Jays agreed to a one-year contract worth nearly $10 million, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand on Tuesday .

The club has not confirmed the deal, which is pending a medical review.

A year ago, the Blue Jays took over Kiermaier in a similar deal after watching him dominate the rival Rays defensively for nearly a decade. Kiermaier hit .265 with eight homers after joking throughout spring training that he hoped to hit zero while being the best No. 9 hitter in the game. He at least held up that end of the deal with a .741 OPS, which was comfortably above his career average, while winning his fourth career Gold Glove Award at center.

This is the Blue Jays’ first big move of the offseason, and while nothing can compare to their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani earlier in December, they had to start somewhere. Kiermaier was a central part of the Blue Jays’ broader rebranding a year ago, when they shifted their focus to pitching and defense, and the organization appears poised to turn back the clock with a Kiermaier outfield at center, Daulton Varsho on the left and George Springer on the right. .

The Blue Jays are still trying to move back up the middle offensively, regaining some of the firepower they lost, but that now seems more likely to happen at third base or DH, the two spots vacated by Matt Chapman and Brandon Belt. Considering the length and dollars involved here, the Kiermaier deal seems like good value for the Blue Jays in a vacuum, but there’s still a long way to go if this club hopes to advance past the Wild Card Round for the first time times since 2016.

As a fielder, Kiermaier talks about the field with the same passion with which great hitters discuss their swing. He led all AL centerfielders with above-average strikeouts last season with 13, and was led only by National League Gold Glove Award winner Brenton Doyle (15) of the Rockies in MLB last season.

What makes Kiermaier truly special is his first jump. An outfielder’s “hop” is defined as the first three seconds after the batter makes contact, and in those three seconds, Kiermaier covers 3.3 feet more than the average fielder. This is the best in baseball and it has propelled Kiermaier into the conversation of the best defenders of this generation.

The Blue Jays need to find a better – and more timely – offense in the coming months, but there is time for that, especially if this club is aggressive in the trade market.

The most interesting aspect of this reunion might be the impact on Varsho, who is an elite defender himself but has spent most of 2023 in left field. Varsho arrived in a holiday deal a year ago when the Blue Jays traded Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno to the D-backs, a high price that matched the expectation he would be the starting defenseman central in the long term. There may be no team in baseball capable of fielding a better defensive duo, but with Varsho presumably remaining in left field, it adds another layer to a blockbuster deal that was already difficult for some fans to digest after the D-backs’ run to the championship. World events.

Toronto’s fourth outfielder position is still open and the club could add another player via free agency or a trade, but there are several internal options. Nathan Lukes has spent more time on the roster in 2023 than his games played and at-bats suggest, while Davis Schneider, Cavan Biggio and several other members of the infield depth group can moonlight in a corner of the outfield. Alan Roden, the Blue Jays’ No. 7 prospect and a baseline machine who posted a .431 OBP between High-A and Double-A a year ago, could come from the pipeline by midseason.

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