Kevin Kiermaier takes batting practice before the Spring Training home opener against the Pirates. (Photo Credit: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times)

The Tampa Bay Rays and Kevin Kiermaier are nearing a contract extension that would pay the centerfielder $53.5-Million over a term of at least six years — an annual average value of nearly $9-Million. The extension is pending final paperwork and a physical.

Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), the deal would begin this season and would replace the $2.975-Million which Kiermaier agreed when avoiding arbitration as a Super Two player in January. It would buy out all four of Kiermaier’s potential arbitration years, and two of his would-be free agent campaigns. It likely includes at least one or two team option years, and would run through his age-32 season, putting The Outlaw on pace to reach free agency just prior to his age-33 campaign.

The 26 year-old centerfielder one of the best (if not the best) defensive players in all of Major League Baseball, producing a total of 13.1 fWAR (average of 4.4 a season) since breaking into the league in 2013. Kiermaier’s 44 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) over the past two seasons are the highest among any big leaguer, and he’s out paced all of baseball with an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of +42.3 runs. Unsurprisingly, he already has two Gold Gloves to his name, as well as a Platinum Glove.

In addition to his glove work, the breakout candidate has produced at an above-average rate at the plate. Kiermaier has collected double-digit home run (10 in 2015, 12 in 2016) and stolen base (18 in 2015, 21 in 2016) totals in each of the past two seasons, while slashing .258 BA/.313 OBP/.425 SLG/.738 OPS in 1314 plate appearances.

And though Kiermaier had come up as a trade candidate at various points over the past two off-seasons, the extension likely would eliminate the any trade speculation in the near future. It, as Topkin contends, is a big deal and a major sign of commitment for both sides, as Kiermaier has emerged from being a 31st-round pick to one of the team’s most dynamic and popular players — a clubhouse, marketing and fan favorite.

Aside from Evan Longoria, Chris Archer and now Kiermaier, the Rays don’t have any other players on a guaranteed contract beyond the 2018 season, making The Outlaw a cornerstone for years to come.

Even though a formal announcement is not expected today, Kiermaier spoke briefly about the extension, and said he is very grateful to the organization:

(Audio Courtesy of Rays Radio)

Leave a comment