Tampa Bay Rays: What Would a Kiermaier Extension Look Like


Arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the American League and the most valuable player for the Tampa Bay Rays when it comes to saving runs, is worthy of a contract extension, here’s why.

It’s no secret that Tampa Bay Rays two-time Gold Glove Award winner Kevin Kiermaier has been one of the most valuable position players in baseball over the past three seasons. He’s been the best defensive center fielder in the game the past two seasons and really it hasn’t even been close.

His 2015 defensive season might be arguably the best season a fielder has ever had with 42 defensive runs saved at a premium defensive position. Offensively he hasn’t lit the world on fire but has still been a pretty steady contributor with the bat being at least around league average over the past three seasons. He also had 21 stolen bases in an injury shortened 2016 season which could be a sign he’s turning into more of a threat on the base paths.

The 26-year old centerfielder will make the league minimum for the Rays once again in 2017 and will be arbitration eligible at the end of next season. It’s been widely discussed throughout the Tampa Bay Rays community that the Rays should extend Kiermaier now and I agree. So now begs the question, what would a Kevin Kiermaier contract extension look like?

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First, let’s take a look at two comparable outfielders who recently just got identical extensions that can serve as a baseline. Ender Inciarte and Odubel Herrera both signed a 5-year extension worth $30.5 million each.

Inciarte, like Kiermaier, just finished his third season in the big leagues and is 26 years old. He can play all three outfield positions but has mostly played centerfield. He’s been a plus defender all three seasons and recorded 13 defensive runs saved with a UZR/150 of 14.9 as a center-fielder for the Braves this past season. Offensively, he has a very similar skill set to Kiermaier as he’s put up very similar numbers with just slightly more plate appearances (1,586 vs 1,313).

Career Offensive Numbers (2014-2016)

                          AVG       OBP        SLG      wOBA    wRC+     K%       BB%
Kiermaier      0.258    0.313     0.425    0.320   105     18.3%    6.6%
Inciarte          0.292    0.337     0.385    0.316      95     11.3%    6.1%

Odubel Herrera was a Rule-5 pick for the Phillies prior to the 2015 season and has been quite the find for them. His first two seasons in the big leagues have been impressive. The 25-year old outfielder has been a plus defensive centerfielder both seasons totaling 16 defensive runs saved and a positive UZR/150 (9.9 and 3.3) in both seasons. Offensively, he’s been outstanding in his 1,193 career plate appearances.

Career Offensive Numbers (2015-2016)

                          AVG         OBP       SLG         wOBA     wRC+    K%         BB%
Herrera              0.291  0.353    0.419       0.336    111    22.0%      7.6%

So now after looking at these two similar players with similar skill sets compared to Kiermaier, here’s what I think the Tampa Bay Rays should offer in terms of an extension:

5-year extension worth $33 million 

It’s slightly higher than the 5-years at $30.5 million that Inciarte and Herrera got but Kiermaier is definitely deserving. While offensively all three players are pretty similar, Kiermaier is hands down the best defender of this group and the best defensive centerfielder in all of baseball.

Despite missing almost half of the 2016 season, his 25 defensive runs saved still led the American League. This is a special defender. His career 13.1 WAR is also higher than both of these players have put up. Plus if Kiermaier were to make an offensive improvement moving forward, we could be talking about a superstar player.

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He’s already made strides in improving his patience in 2016 and his .278 BABIP seems like an indicator he’s due for an offensive improvement in 2017. Why not pay him now before he explodes in an even more valuable player?

This extension does appear very team friendly for the Rays which is something crucial. If Kiermaier stays healthy and puts up another 5 WAR season in 2017, the deal pays for itself in year one. That’s incredible value.

It’s also important to note that the Rays don’t have a centerfielder in their minor league pipeline close to the surface either who could replace Kiermaier in the near future if they’ve considered dealing him.

This deal gives Kiermaier financial stability for the next five seasons in case of injury. He’s also expressed his love for the area and would love to stay here for years to come.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: 2016 the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Overall, I think this deal is beneficial to both sides and the Rays should attempt to lock up Kiermaier as soon as possible. They clearly see him as part of their core for years to come and locking him up now would be in their best interest.