In the same week that Jason Dominguez underwent Tommy John surgery, the Yankees may have seen the 2024 Opening Day center fielder patrolling the outfield in the Bronx.
Kevin Kiermaier certainly seems open to changing his jersey and wearing pinstripes this offseason.
The three-time Gold Glover is enjoying his most offensive season in his first year with the Blue Jays.
Kiermaier spent his first 10 seasons with the Rays, serving as a middle-order hitter and game-changing outfielder.
The soon-to-be free agent could continue his league tour with a third club in the AL East, which notably doesn’t play home games on turf like the Rays and Jays.
“I like the AL East. I’ve played in that division my whole career. I especially like it here and Fenway,” he said after the Blue Jays played the first two of three games against the Yankees. Kirmayer said this week after losing the final game 5-3 on Thursday. “I feel like I’m always hitting home runs and playing well here.
“I enjoy being on the grass because I’ve been on the grass my whole career. Being on the grass makes my body feel so much better.”
Kiermaier, a left-handed hitter, entered Thursday with a high OPS of .850 in his career at Stadium, with his relentless contact hitting and smooth fielding that troubled the Yankees for many of the Rays’ favorite clubs.
The only depth in center field this offseason will be Cody Bellinger, Harrison Bader, and Kiermaier, and not much else.
The Yankees are especially interested after losing Dominguez, who underwent surgery on Wednesday and is expected to spend nine to 10 months recovering.
If the Yankees are looking for a stopgap at the position, Kiermaier, 33, would be an attractive option.
He bounced back from undergoing hip surgery in 2022 and signing a one-year, $9 million deal with the Blue Jays last offseason, returning to being one of the best defensive outfielders in the game.
Kiermaier entered the game as the highest-rated center fielder in runs scored and third in above-average outs.
“I feel like I’ve put myself in a good position.” [entering free agency]”Even though I’m 33 years old after hip surgery, I still feel like I can hold my own in the center field,” said Kiermaier, who is outstanding defensively but will also come with an injury risk. . “At the end of the day, it’s about hitting. He can run the bases every year, and he can play great defense.
“For me, I just wanted to prove to myself and others that I could handle a bat, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.”
Kiermaier had a .269 average and .757 OPS, which would be his best numbers since 2017.
He cited several factors for the improved offense, including contact and a contact-based approach.
Kiermaier said he recently noticed that his eyesight was deteriorating.
He underwent an eye exam, had his contacts adjusted, and wore them for the first time this season.
“My eyesight was much worse than I expected it to be in years,” Kiermaier said. “I feel like I can see the ball better now.”
With improved vision and a rehabbed hip, he has refined his approach.
He hit 15 home runs in a season, but was never known for his power.
Kiermaier, who went 1-for-3 and had one RBI in Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays, is on track to hit just eight home runs in 2023, eight more than his goal for this season.
“I just wanted to take a simple approach to everything.” “I had a goal this year of not hitting a home run,” said Kiermaier, whose 21.2 percent strikeout rate this year was the highest since 2016. Hit to gain power. I’m a guy who can sometimes hit for power, and I’ve also tried to make it more of a tool for me. And when that happens, it usually doesn’t work out.
“So now we’re focusing on a middle-away approach for the first time. … We’re seeing results.”
The Yankees, who are right-handed, have a lot of strikeouts, and have an uneven defense, might be a good fit.
Kiermaier doesn’t want to think too far ahead and said it’s “fun” while chasing the playoffs with the Blue Jays, but he knows he’s well prepared for this offseason. .
“It’s going to be a bridge to cross when I get there, but I’m motivated,” he said of free agency. “I know there’s a lot left in the tank.”