Kevin Kiermaier has been a great story in an otherwise bleak Tampa Bay Rays season. The rookie has impressed so far, hitting .264/.315/.450 in 104 games while also playing solid defense. That said, the Rays have an outfield surplus, and it is likely that at least one of them will be traded his offseason. Here are the cases for and against trading Kiermaier.
Why The Rays Should Trade Kevin Kiermaier
Kiermaier has come in and set the world on fire. His defense and surprising pop has made Rays fans forget about Sam Fuld. Well, Rays fans, I’m sorry but this is as good as it will get. His defense is great, but the Rays need an impact bat and it isn’t likely that Kiermaier will ever become that. He is neither powerful enough to be a middle of the order hitter nor is he discriminating enough to lead off for the Rays.
As has been documented, the Rays need someone to add some speed in the leadoff spot. While Kiermaier’s raw speed is good, he isn’t a great base stealer, and he has significant work to do if he ever wants to become one. This year, Kiermaier has stolen only five bases and has been thrown out four times.
If, as my colleague Drew Jenkins noted in a recent article, the Rays can use Kiermaier as a part of a possible piece in a trade that could net someone like Evan Gattis of the Atlanta Braves, they would be fools not to jump at that. Especially given Wil Myers’ recent struggles, Evan Longoria is the Rays’ only reliable middle-of-the-order bat, and adding someone like Gattis would be a major improvement of the Rays’ current options.
The Rays have plenty of outfield options. Desmond Jennings doesn’t have Kiermaier’s arm, but he is a good defender in center and is average with the bat. Matt Joyce (if the Rays keep him), David DeJesus, Wil Myers, and Brandon Guyer make up a more-than-capable outfield. Meanwhile, Kiermaier’s value is high after his successful rookie season, and the Rays could take advantage of that given that there is a risk that his bat won’t ever reach these levels again. If they could use him to acquire an impact hitter, the Rays should strongly consider it.
Why The Rays Shouldn’t Trade Kevin Kiermaier
Kevin Kiermaier’s defense wins games. Like a pitcher with a live arm, you cannot just go out and find a defensive centerfielder of Kiermaier’s quality, and the runs he saves will more than make up for his somewhat average bat. Starting out this season, Kiermaier hit above his capabilities, and he’s cooled down to hit just .190 in August and .241 in September. But he has consistently showed enough to make you believe he is a plus defensive outfielder.
This is Kiermaier’s first major league season and his 3.8 fWAR is outstanding. A lot of that is due to his bat, but even if he regresses at the plate, Kiermaier’s defense alone is good enough to make him worth 3.0+ wins above replacement each year. The Rays recognize the value of his defense, and they also understand that it will likely mean he comes cheaper in arbitration than someone who gets their value through offense. Their outfield defense is decent thanks to Jennings, Guyer, and an improved Myers, but if Kiermaier was traded, the Rays’ defense would be significantly hurt. Also, Kiermaier is still under control from five more seasons, two of which will be at the league minimum.
Overall, there are valid arguments for and against trading Kevin Kiermaier. On one hand, the Rays could take advantage of a great rookie season, but on the other hand, his defense is outstanding and he is cheap and controllable. In all likelihood, the Rays will listen to any offers on him, and they will stay true to team tendencies by only moving him if they clearly would win a deal. If they get the chance to acquire a big bat, though, we could definitely see Kiermaier in a different uniform in 2014.