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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Kevin Kiermaier

Kiermaier is a glove-first center fielder with speed and experience. He might fit the Yankees’ plans depending on how their pursuit of other targets goes.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

The New York Yankees are looking for outfield help. There might not be a worse-kept secret in the baseball universe. It’s also a reality that the team prefers to prioritize those who hit from the left side of the plate in their pursuit. Playing good defense is a plus, and being productive is a necessity. Kevin Kiermaier fits most of those requirements, thus making him a viable option for the Yankees as they enter a crucial part of their offseason.

2023 Statistics: 129 games, 408 PA, .265/.322/.419, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 14 SB, 104 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Depth Charts Projections: 97 games, 420 PA, .244/.304/.386, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 11 SB, 88 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR

Previous Contract: One-year, $9 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for 2023

Let’s start with a profile of the player. Kiermaier was a quality starter and borderline star from 2014 to 2017, posting seasons of 2.8, 4.3, 3.7 and 3.6 fWAR in succession. He has four Gold Gloves in center field, winning two over that span above (2015 and 2016).

Those were also his best years as a hitter:

2014: 117 wRC+

2015: 97 wRC+

2016: 104 wRC+

2017: 113 wRC+

An above-average hitter with elite defense – he was probably the best center fielder other than Mike Trout in baseball during those days – made him a pretty desirable asset back then. However, time passes, and things happen. Kiermaier will be 34 next April, and even though he remains an excellent defensive player (18 Defensive Runs Saved, 13 Outs Above Average in 2023 with the Toronto Blue Jays) it’s fair to wonder how long that will last.

He has been closer to average at the plate from 2018 to 2023, even below average to be fair — with a .238/.301/.389 line and a 91 wRC+ in 2,025 plate appearances. With that being said, he was fairly solid this past campaign with the Blue Jays, slashing .265/.322/.419 with eight home runs, 14 stolen bases, a 104 wRC+ and 2.2 fWAR in 129 games and 408 trips to the plate.

He showed this past season that he can be a competitive hitter with a few home runs here and there, plus some steals, too. His wRC+ will likely range between 90 and 105 at this point of his career, though. With Jasson Domínguez out for at least a few months into the 2024 season, bringing in Kiermaier would make a lot of sense from a baseball standpoint. The team would have a star defender with some pop and speed. Basically, that’s what they wanted from Harrison Bader, but Kiermaier’s offensive floor appears to be higher even if the ceiling is similar.

Kiermaier, who played under a one-year, $9 million contract with the Blue Jays in 2023, has likely earned a multi-year deal. Ben Clemens of FanGraphs forecasts a two-year, $24 million pact for the dynamic center fielder. That should be within the Yankees’ budget.

Will the Yankees make a move? As it always happens, it will depend on the price, the opportunity, other players’ markets and pursuits, and other factors. For example, if the Yankees land two of Cody Bellinger, Jung-Hoo Lee, and Juan Soto; then it’s hard to see them going after Kiermaier. There’s also the new factor of adding Alex Verdugo to the mix to consider, though it’s unclear at this time whether he’s an addition for 2024 or just passing through in part of a larger connected deal.

If they bring in one or none, perhaps they will make Kiermaier, who has implied he would be open to playing in pinstripes in the past, a priority. He seems to be what the Yankees are looking for, at least from a defensive, baserunning, and experience standpoint. Age and offense are a different story and those could be the deciding factors. His offensive contributions will likely dictate his value and whether the (hypothetical) investment was worth it or not, but Kiermaier is a guy that the Yankees should at least inquire about.