Blue Jays agree to deal with veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier

Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier reacts after his double off Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Darwinzon Hernandez breaks up a no-hit bid during the eighth inning of a baseball game Thursday, June 24, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays have reached an agreement, pending a physical, with left-handed hitting centre-fielder Kevin Kiermaier, a three-time Gold Glove winner who will boost their outfield defence, according to an industry source.

His pending addition is the first move of consequence for the Blue Jays since trading right-fielder Teoscar Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Erik Swanson and prospect Adam Macko last month.

Kiermaier became a free agent when the Tampa Bay Rays turned down his $13 million club option. The 32-year-old is coming off surgery August to repair the labrum and deal with an impingement in his left hip, and was limited to just 63 games in 2022, batting .228/.281/.369.

Over nine full seasons in the majors, Kiermaier has batted .248/.308/.407 with 112 stolen bases but more pertinently to the Blue Jays, has been a 71 Outs Above Average defender since 2016. Both his jumps on balls in play and arm strength have been among the best in the league.

Outfield defence may loom larger than usual for the Blue Jays next season with Major League Baseball implementing new rules to ban infield shifts and new outfield dimensions coming at Rogers Centre as part of the current renovation.

Club president and CEO Mark Shapiro said this week that the outfield wall will not be “uniform all the way around, whether it be height or angles. That creates some interesting outcomes on balls in play.”

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