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Cubs free agent target: Kevin Kiermaier

He’s been a very good defensive center fielder for a long time. There are caveats, though.

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Kevin Kiermaier has played for the Tampa Bay Rays for the last 10 seasons, winning three Gold Gloves and generally been considered one of the better center fielders in the major leagues. His 914 games played for the Rays ranks fifth in franchise history. (FWIW, third on that list is Ben Zobrist.)

Kiermaier has never been a great hitter and has often missed significant time with injuries over those 10 seasons — only once has he played in 150 or more games. Nevertheless, he posted 7.6 bWAR in 2015, 5.5 bWAR in 2016 and 4.8 bWAR in 2017, largely because of his defensive value.

In 2022, Kiermaier played in only 63 games and none after July 9 due to a hip injury. Surgery to repair this problem ended his 2022 season, and given this video tribute the Rays gave him at their second-to-last home game September 24, likely ended his time in Tampa Bay:

So, why should the Cubs sign him as a free agent?

Because if he is healthy, he can help bridge the large gap the Cubs now have in center field until Pete Crow-Armstrong is ready, perhaps in 2024. (I am not counting on Brennen Davis, because he’s had injury issues of his own.)

It would have to be a contract laden with incentives, given the possibility that Kiermaier might not be able to play much, if at all. Kiermaier made $12.1 million in 2022, the last year of a six-year, $53.5 million deal. There’s a team option for $13 million for 2023 or a $2.5 million buyout, and the Rays are almost certainly going to exercise the buyout and make him a free agent (especially after that tribute video).

So what would it take to get Kiermaier? What I would like to see is a minor league deal with a guarantee of $3 million if he makes the Opening Day roster. Then give $1 million incentives for 90, 100, 110, 120, 130 and 140 games, so that’s a $10 million deal if Kiermaier can play anything close to a full season. Then if he did play 140 games, give him a vesting option for $13 million in 2023 or a $1 million buyout.

There would be little risk in such a deal, and potentially solid production if he’s healthy.

I don’t know if this matters to Kevin Kiermaier in terms of where he plays, but if you did not already know this, his brother Dan is the head groundskeeper at Wrigley Field. The brothers grew up in Indiana and, per this article, made annual trips to Wrigley in the summer and became Cubs fans.

The two reunited when the Rays visited Wrigley last April:

Would you do this? I think I would; Kiermaier doesn’t have to be a great hitter, only decent, and if he can play good defense and help mentor some of the Cubs’ younger players, that’d be a big win, I think.


Kevin Kiermaier...

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    ... the Cubs should sign him to a contract like the one proposed in the article
    (252 votes)
  • 5%
    ... the Cubs should sign him, but it will cost more in money or years or both
    (45 votes)
  • 16%
    ... the Cubs should sign him, but for less than the proposal in the article
    (125 votes)
  • 44%
    ... the Cubs should not sign him
    (342 votes)
  • 1%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (8 votes)
772 votes total Vote Now