Tampa Bay Rays: Kevin Kiermaier is Not Going Anywhere – Nor Should He
By Seth Carter
The Tampa Bay Rays recently completed a second trade with the Padres this off-season. Many began to speculate if this meant the end of their centerfielder’s tenure in Tampa.
The Tampa Bay Rays were in need of outfield depth so they reached out to an earlier trade partner to strike a deal.
Earlier this offseason the Rays sent Tommy Pham to the San Diego Padres in exchange for slugger and defensive wizard Hunter Renfroe, and top-infield prospect Xavier Edwards.
As it stood prior to the deal, the newly acquired Randy Arozarena was projected to be the likely backup in the centerfield. He fit the mold of a right-handed bat with above-average defense, but his inexperience may have played a factor in the Rays reaching out to the Padres about Manuel Margot.
Fans and analysts alike began to speculate about star centerfielder – Kevin Kiermaier‘s future in Tampa Bay. Before we dive into the speculation, let’s take a look at just how good Kiermaier is with the glove.
Kiermaier is currently the second-highest-paid player on the roster and while his three gold gloves are well-deserved, he tends to leave the fans wanting more at the plate.
Nobody can deny his incredible defense. Name a metric and he’s at or near the top.
Kiermaier ranked in the 99th percentile in outfield Outs Above Average. He ranked in the 97th percentile in sprint speed. Kiermaier ranked among the 100th percentile in outfielder jumps.
Here are a few fun facts from Rays Colored Glasses’ Profile Page:
- Kiermaier is widely considered one of the best defenders in the league. He has three gold gloves to his credit in 2015, 2016, and 2019.
- His defense is so good, in 2015 he only had a .263 average, 10 homers, a sub-.300 OBP, and was still finished 17th in the MVP award voting.
- In his six full seasons with the Rays, he has only averaged 113 games per season. Despite the injuries, Kevin Kiermaier has accumulated an incredible 130 defensive runs saved before the age of thirty.
Does Margot Mean Kiermaier is Expendable?
Margot is considered a top-notch defender, but according to the numbers, he’s a step or two below Kiermaier.
As far as the bat? Kiermaier has a career OPS+ of 97 while Margot sits at a career mark of 87.
Margot does not provide the flexibility to trade Kiermaier, he’s a suitable backup plan for a spectacular centerfielder.
Kiermaier heard the rumblings…
He wants to be here. Should he go down to an injury then we have a suitable replacement in Margot, but it’s surely a slight step down.
Kiermaier still has the potential to do something special with the bat. Keep in mind, he’s had two seasons with an OPS+ above 100, with a 104 in 2016, a 113 in 2017 and a 117 in 2014.
Kiermaier has spent a lot of time on the injured list, averaging 113 games per season over the last six years. When he’s healthy, he’s certainly not a Mike Trout-like hitter but he’s proven he can be above average – which is insane compared to the value he brings on defense.
So, how’s he feeling coming into camp this year? I will once again defer to the marvelous Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Kiermaier, Renfroe, and Margot combined for 41 defensive runs saved last season, that’s more than any other team’s entire outfield in the American League last year. It’s a good time to be a good pitcher in Tampa Bay.
Do you think Kiermaier will be “dangerous” this year?