SF Giants checked in on elite defensive outfielder before he returned to Toronto

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees / Elsa/GettyImages

The SF Giants bolstered outfield defense by signing KBO star Jung Hoo Lee to a six-year, $113 million pact in December. They also checked in on elite defensive outfielder Kevin Kiermaier before he returned to the Toronto Blue Jays, per Jon Morosi of MLB.Com.

SF Giants checked in on elite defensive outfielder before he returned to Toronto

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs checked in on Kiermaier as well. The Blue Jays retained the veteran outfielder on a one-year, $10.5 million deal near the end of December.

Morosi does not indicate whether the Giants expressed interest following the Lee signing. It is likely to have occurred before that, but the Giants could have certainly fortified outfield defense by adding both Lee and Kiermaier in the same offseason. This is especially true given that Kiermaier signed a very reasonable deal on the heels of a solid 2023 campaign.

Outfield defense has been an issue for the Giants in recent seasons. Giants outfielders tallied -13 Outs Above Average (OAA), which was 27th in baseball, and -7 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), which was 22nd in baseball. Regardless of the metric used, they were comfortably below average as a unit last season.

Adding Kiermaier would have gone a long way in helping San Francisco right that ship. The front office could have really made team defense a strength in 2024. While it has been upgraded this season, it could have truly been a strength of the roster.

The 33-year-old outfielder is coming off of a season in which he registered a .265/.322/.419 line (104 OPS+) with eight home runs, 36 RBI, and 58 runs in 408 plate appearances. Anything he offers on offense is a bonus, but he continued to excel defensively as he recorded +18 DRS and +13 OAA in center field while taking home his fourth AL Gold Glove award.

Keirmaier is not the only glove-first outfielder the Giants pursued this winter. They were reportedly connected to Harrison Bader before he joined the New York Mets on a one-year deal. It is clear that the Giants prioritized outfield defense in free agency.

For what it is worth, Kiermaier is happy to return to the Blue Jays. It felt like a natural landing spot, but the 11-year veteran had several interested suitors before he decided to remain in Toronto.