The Phillies are reportedly targeting Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier
The Tampa Bay Rays are reportedly “engaging seriously” when it comes to trading longtime centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, and the Philadelphia Phillies should push and claw their way to the front of the line.
According to The Athletic‘s Matt Gelb, the Phillies have been in touch with the Rays about Kiermaier, who has three Gold Glove (including a Platinum Glove) awards to his name and nine years of big-league outfield experience.
The 31-year-old CF was drafted by the Rays in the 31st round of the 2010 June draft and made his debut in September 2013. He has a lifetime .249/.310/.410 line and .720 OPS, which aren’t exactly the power-hitter numbers Dave Dombrowski is looking for, though Kiermaier’s seven triples in 2021 were tied for second in MLB.
But what Kiermaier lacks in bat power, he more than makes up for in the outfield. He is an elite defender, with more defensive bWAR than offensive bWAR over his career. Since 2016, his 62 outs above average rank third among MLB outfielders.
"“I believe I’m the best defensive outfielder in the game. I’d put my talents up with anyone, and I’m very confident in saying that.” Kevin Kiermaier, April 2021"
One thing that might (and should) give the Phillies pause is Kiermaier’s struggle to stay healthy. He’s only played a total of 851 career games in his nine-year career. Excluding 2013, because he only played in one game, he’s averaged 106 games in each full season of his career. Kiermaiaer has only exceeded 129 games in a season once, and it was way back in 2015.
However, there’s added appeal in how low-risk this trade would be for the Phillies. 2022 is the final year of Kiermaier’s contract, he’s coming off a middling season, and he’ll be 32 in April, so the Phillies don’t have to commit to too much for too long. It’s a financially-savvy move, too; KK is owed $12M in 2022, but Gelb noted that only $8.9M of that counts towards the luxury tax. If he does well, the team can pick up his 2023 option. If not, the 2022 free-agent class is brimming with outfielders.
Kiermaier’s remaining contract could also bridge the gap to some Phillies farm talent. Their #6 prospect Johan Rojas is an outfield talent whom MLB.com projects as a 2023 debut. His scouting report notes that Rojas has a “knack for contact” and the “plus speed and instincts” to “stick in center,” though he has played each outfield position.
The Phillies should trade for Kevin Kiermaier or Cedric Mullins
Fellow AL East centerfielder Cedric Mullins is also rumored to be available, but after his All-Star and Silver Slugger season, and given the fact that he’s only 26, the Baltimore Orioles will have a steep asking price.
Mullins displayed more pop at the plate than Kiermaier in 2021, but it was his first full season, which makes his future less predictable. Kiermaier isn’t exactly a slugger, but he has been largely consistent offensively for nearly a decade. He averages 25 doubles, 14 home runs, and 56 RBI per 162 games, and steals an average of 20 bases per season.
Either CF will be an upgrade for the Phillies; they just need to go out and actually make it happen. And then they can still sign big-bat left-fielder Kyle Schwarber, too.