The Tampa Bay Rays are close to an extension with their excellent defensive center fielder, Kevin Kiermaier, reports the Tampa Bay Times. The deal would be for six years and $50 million, Marc Topkin of the Times reports, noting that the deal won’t be made official in the next few days.
Kiermaier, 26, wasn’t due to hit free agency until after the 2020 season, but this would buy out his arbitration years and then two years into free agency. Buying out the arbitration years is a good way for smaller-market clubs to get some cost certainty instead of having to project what a player will be earning through the arbitration process years in advance.
By the same token, Kiermaier would get financial stability should a career-ending or -altering injury take place, or if he just all of a sudden falls apart as a player.
Basically, a contract like this initially looks like a win-win. It can eventually be a net-negative for a player (Anthony Rizzo’s seven-year, $42 million deal has two club options that run through 2021 and he’d easily make over $100 million on the open market) and for a team (Jon Singleton’s five-year, $10 million deal got the Astros basically no production at all).
Kiermaier hit .246/.331/.410 (104 OPS+) with 20 doubles, 12 homers and 21 steals in 105 games last season. He was injured for a good chunk of the year, but still provided 5.5 WAR based upon his unbelievable defense in center field. He’s on the short list of the best defenders in all of baseball and should be for the next handful of seasons.
Those will come with the Rays, thanks in part to this extension, should it be officially completed.