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After being “caught off guard” by lack of interest in free agency, Kevin Kiermaier says he’s as motivated as he’s ever been
By Cam Lewis1 month ago
Kevin Kiermaier has big plans for 2024, including winning another Gold Glove and having the best season offensively of his career.
While speaking to the media earlier this week for the first time since signing a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Blue Jays, Kiermaier said “I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been right now.”
What’s fuelled that fire? A lack of interest on the open market.
Kiermaier signed a one-year, $9 million deal with the Blue Jays last winter after the Tampa Bay Rays, the team he came up with, opted to let him walk. He was 33 years old and coming off of a season that was limited to 63 games because of injury but received quite a bit of interest as a rebound candidate.
Despite posting his highest batting average (.265) and on-base plus slugging (.741) numbers in over five years and winning the American League Gold Glove for centre field, Kiermaier received less interest after his excellent season in Toronto.
“This year, my offers weren’t anything near last year,” Kiermaier said. “After winning a Gold Glove, after I said that I was going to be the best nine-hole hitter in the game and play Gold Glove-caliber defense. I did everything I said, but still, not many teams were interested which caught me off-guard.”
Kiermaier will return to the Blue Jays on another one-year contract that features a $1.5 million raise from his post-injury, show-me deal and the expectation is that he’ll play a similar role to last year. General manager Ross Atkins said that the team benefitted considerably from Kiermaier’s presence in 2023 and he hopes that the veteran outfielder is healthy and able to contribute at that same level again.
“I would expect and hope that his role is largely similar, where he is playing very regularly for us based on health and performance,” Atkins said. “KK has been remarkable in his career for two organizations now. We benefited last year from having him around. It’s so difficult for someone to bring that level of energy and positivity on a daily and nightly basis, and KK somehow finds a way to do it. Fans felt it. Our clubhouse feels it. Our entire team feels it.”
The Blue Jays have a handful of players who are coming into next season with a chip on their shoulder. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has had two down seasons at the plate since finishing as the runner-up for the AL MVP in 2021 and Alek Manoah went from being the team’s Opening Day starter to pitching in the Florida Complex League.
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