Over the weekend, free agent outfielder Kevin Kiermaier signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, ending the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pursuit of the former longtime Tampa Bay Ray. Once Cody Bellinger was non-tendered, Kiermaier became the obvious solution in center field.
The chief reason was because the Dodgers wanted to maintain the elite defense out there at half the price, given how badly Bellinger’s bat regressed the last 2.5 years. Kiermaier is pretty much an average bat, so LA could’ve justified the cost.
But it’s not encouraging that the 32-year-old spurned the Dodgers — a perennial NL power and team best positioned to win their division — for Toronto, a team that has to compete in the most difficult division in baseball.
Even worse is the fact that the Dodgers wanted him. He was their top target to replace Bellinger. They were unable to secure a third-tier free agent when they had a clear vacancy and an expressed desire to do so.
This could surely be an isolated incident, but fans might be willing to bet that this isn’t a good sign for the remainder of the offseason as the Dodgers look to upgrade with limited options remaining.
Dodgers missing out on Kevin Kiermaier is a bit worrisome for 2023
Instead, before the Kiermaier move, the Dodgers seemingly insured themselves by signing Jason Heyward to a minor-league contract for 2023 as the Chicago Cubs pay the remainder of his big-league salary.
The problem with that is Heyward is far more washed than Kiermaier is at this point, and never at any point in his career was he a full-time center fielder. So why would that change as he heads into his age-33 season with a laundry list of health issues that have plagued him since 2020? The Cubs cut him loose and paid the remainder of the ~$40 million owed to him. That says all you need to know.
Kiermaier, also 33, is no poster boy for longevity, but he was at least a realistic option that could provide Bellinger-esque defense and a smidge better offense. Heyward more than likely can’t do either of those things.
They were better off keeping Joey Gallo! Or bringing back AJ Pollock! Or giving David Peralta a try. Maybe even swiping Jurickson Profar could’ve been a possibility. Chris Taylor and James Outman can play center field, so another real corner outfielder with a shred of potential would’ve been better than getting Heyward under contract this early in the offseason.
If the Dodgers are going to wait out the market for their preferable price points, they need to be careful, because some free agents, especially the aging ones, might prefer more money or comfort at this stage of their careers. If the Dodgers can’t offer the comfort, they’d better pony up the cash.