Dodgers must do better than Kevin Kiermaier in center field search

Adam Weinrib
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on from the bench as his team takes on the Tampa Bay Rays during a baseball game at Tropicana Field on September 25, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is Kiermaiers last home game for the Rays. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on from the bench as his team takes on the Tampa Bay Rays during a baseball game at Tropicana Field on September 25, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is Kiermaiers last home game for the Rays. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) /
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In terms of skill set, tenacity, and penchant for causing irritation, recent Ray Kevin Kiermaier is a St. Louis Cardinal.

The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t typically sign St. Louis Cardinals. They sign and develop superstars. The Cardinals sign and develop gnats. Both sides should keep it that way.

Andrew Friedman reversed course on his recent positive comments and non-tendered 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger, an unprecedented move in most cases, but a decision packed with precedent in this rare case. Most Valuable Players don’t typically get coldly cut. Players who perform as poorly as Bellinger, over a sustained period of time, don’t usually get fourth chances. Players who subtract 1.0 WAR from their teams, then watch said team fall one game short of winning the NL West against the juggernaut San Francisco Giants, don’t usually have carte blanche.

The Dodgers now have something approximating $100 million to play with before they hit the luxury tax threshold, meaning the money saved on Bellinger’s contract doesn’t have to be pocketed.

Think of how much more impressive this already-ridiculous Dodgers lineup would be without an offensive black hole in the outfield, and without the need to constantly flip through lottery tickets like Yoshi Tsutsugo before a Trayce Thompson type appears. LA seems poised to roll with top prospect James Outman now that a role has been opened up. But they shouldn’t stop there.

The 32-year-old Kiermaier is a valuable role player, and if his market dwindles, he could do just as much net good as Bellinger in 2023. He shouldn’t be the Dodgers’ center field focus, though, nor should he be a penciled-in starter.

Dodgers Rumors: LA should shoot higher than Kevin Kiermaier

Kiermaier’s counting stats leave something to be desired. He’s a Gold Glover who might be aging out of being a defense-first option. He’s a one-time MVP vote-gatherer, who finished 17th in his age-25 season despite a below-average offensive season (99 OPS+ in 2015).

He’s a winning piece of a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts, but he’s not the Opening Day center fielder for one of MLB’s glitz-and-glamor teams.

If the Dodgers do cash out for Kiermaier, they’d better be planning to roll with Outman and Miguel Vargas in the outfield rotation, mixing power with panache. They should focus on the Mitch Haniger chase, as well as their Aaron Judge pitch, instead of sidling up and making Kiermaier their latest Kevin Pillar-ish move.

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