Kevin Kiermaier played his final game in the 2023 season at Target Field. Interestingly enough, he could be playing his first game in the 2024 season in Minneapolis, depending on how his offseason goes. Only, this time, he’d be playing for the Minnesota Twins. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Twins are rumored to be interested in adding Kiermaier.
Minnesota plans to use their position player depth to acquire pitchers via trades because they will probably lose Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda in free agency. But they also have an interest in Kiermaier, the free-agent center fielder. The former Toronto Blue Jays center fielder hit free agency a few weeks ago, hot off of a pretty good season. He’s a fit on any contending team.
Kiermaier played the 2023 season for the Jays on a one-year, $9 million contract because the Jays made him feel wanted more than any other interested team, something the Twins could easily achieve. Additionally, Minnesota must offer him a similar amount to sign him this offseason. However, the Twins are looking to reduce payroll costs, which could impact their approach to free agency this season. They will likely have trouble signing elite free agents.
Interestingly, Kiermaier prefers playing on grass, which could be a factor in his decision-making process this time. When he learned that the New York Yankees were interested in him, he stated that he had been playing on turf his entire career, and his body felt much better when he played on grass. That could be a potential selling point for the Twins to entice him to sign, given that Target Field has real grass. Furthermore, the Twins are better positioned to repeat as Central Division champions than the Yankees, who haven’t played to their standard recently.
There is always the chance he could re-sign with Toronto. However, it appears more likely that he will end up signing with another contender. Michael A. Taylor is a free agent and will probably look to cash in elsewhere. However, there is still a possibility he could return to the Twins lineup.
If Taylor leaves, Kiermaier would be a slight upgrade to the position while providing high-end replacement potential for Byron Buxton. Signing Kiermaier could also create a best-case scenario where Buxton returns fully healthy. The Twins could use a guy coming off the second-best year of his career at the plate to fill in at center, allowing Buxton more time off his feet. Considering how much the Twins’ offense struggled this past season, they should welcome another bat.
At the very least, Kiermaier would provide Minnesota with valuable insurance should Buxton experience another setback. The Twins won’t be the only team vying for his services. However, it’s clear the front office is already getting to work on what will be a crucial offseason. Many factors go into Minnesota’s plans this year that will make it challenging to achieve all their goals. But the Twins’ front office is well-positioned to handle these challenges.
Given Minnesota’s payroll restrictions, it has been reported that Minnesota could move either Jorge Polanco or Max Kepler this offseason, possibly even in a package deal. If the team moved Kepler, that could help secure a pitcher potentially for the bullpen and open up a spot in the outfield for Kiermaier. Even if Kepler returns, the team could use the Kiermaier/Buxton combo in center and left field. Potentially giving the Twins a very defensive outfield.
Kiermaier is still an elite defender at 33, having just won his fourth Gold Glove award. He slashed .265/.322/.419 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 129 games played last season. Kiermaier finished his 11th year in the big leagues and made a big impact on the Blue Jays. He helped push them through the late-season struggles to a wild card berth, where the Twins swept them in two games.
There is a lot of hope among Twins fans that Buxton will return to his MVP form in the season. However, they are aware of the risk because of his injury history. Buxton’s performance last year was particularly disappointing. He didn’t play in the field and struggled as a designated hitter.
Fortunately, Michael A. Taylor stepped up and became Minnesota’s center fielder. If the Twins sign Kiermaier, he would get to play on real grass. He’d also have a good chance of making another playoff appearance while playing other positions in the outfield. The potential for success is there. The Twins just need it all to come together.