Earlier this week the Rays held their weekly "Twitter Tuesday" campaign with Principal owner, Stu Sternberg. One the questions asked was about the possibility of extending Kevin Kiermaier.
Very. https://t.co/5SrBXrsHVc— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 26, 2016
If you haven't done so already, take a look at Danny Russell's article about the value of Kevin Kiermaier. In the article, Danny looks at a potential WAR value, and wonders if it would be worth it to extend the newest face of the franchise. In the poll, the majority of you agreed that we should lock up the Outlaw.
Long Term Deal Concerns
The biggest concern is whether Kiermaier's stellar defense, the source of the majority of his value, will hold up as he ages. We should expect some decline as he loses his speed, as well as an injury risk as he continues to make show stopping plays on the Rays' Astroturf outfield.
If Kiermaier does lose his defensive edge, and the bat does not improve, then the Rays have a sunk cost into a player that might end up as a 4th OF.
Its always hard to project a potential deal, especially for someone like Kiermaier who has the potential to not only be the face of the Rays, but also a huge star in the MLB. Two main deals come to mind:
During Spring Training in 2014, Andrelton Simmons signed a 7-year/ $58 Million extension with the Atlanta Braves. Simmons had just come of a year where he won the Rawling's Platinum Glove and put up a 41 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) season. Simmons is a defensive whiz first and a bat second. In fact, his posts a 83 wRC+, and a .291 wOBA over his entire MLB career, which is aren't numbers that make owners pull out their checkbooks. In comparison, Kiermaier has a career 107 wRC+, and a .320 wOBA. The offensive production from Kiermaier's bat is something the Rays will have to consider if they decide to structure an extension.
The only major difference between Andrelton Simmons' deal and a potential Kiermaier one is that Simmons signed his deal when he was 24, and Kiermaier just turned 27, so the Rays will be looking for a shorter deal and have to consider that it would stretch into into Kiermaier's early 30's, when physical decline is far more likely.
The second comparable deal is the Pittsburgh Pirates' extension of Gregory Polanco. The deal is good for 5 years and $35 million with two club options that could bring its value up to $58 million. Polanco isn't as tremendous a defender as Simmons or Kiermaier, posting a career total of 12 DRS, but his bat does match closer to Kiermaier's, posting a 98 wRC+ and a .311 wOBA over his career to date, which is helped by a huge jump in 2016, where he has a 156 wRC+ and .415 wOBA with a .358 BABIP. In 2015, Polanco produced a 98 wRC+ and a .304 wOBA, which is almost exactly in line with Kiermaier's 98 wRC+ and .309 wOBA.
However, just like Simmons, Polanco's deal was signed when the young outfielder was only 24 years old.
Using the two deals outlined above, and taking the concerns of a defensive decline into consideration, we have a better idea of what the Rays could offer Kiermaier. Age is a factor that has to be considered in any deal, and with Kiermaier being 27, a shorter deal is likely to be developed. The Rays also have the bitter aftertaste of James Loney's 3 year/$21 million dollar deal fresh in their mind.
When the Rays have extended their young players, they do like to buy out at least 1 or 2 Free Agent years in exchange for financial security. Chris Archer and Matt Moore both have two free agent years bought out in their deals, but they were signed at a younger age than Kiermaier.
Kiermaier could be scheduled to hit arbitration as soon as next year, depending when he reaches "Super Two" status. If he does start the arbitration process next year, and continues to be defensively stellar with a solid offensive production, he will get expensive very quickly. An extension deal provide Kiermaier with immediate financial security while offering the Rays a more predictable payroll.
Here's the deal I would predict: the Rays sign Kevin Kiermaier to a 4 year $25 million contract with a 1 year, $10 million option. In total this would come to 5 years and $35 million. It keeps the AAV around a manageable $6.25 million for the Rays, and gives Kevin Kiermaier financial stability and keeps him in a Rays' uniform through the 2021 season. Of course, there could be financial incentives for winning Gold Gloves or a certain number of plate appearances per year that could ensure that the Outlaw stays on top of his defensive game. This "deal" will make sure the Outlaw keeps patrolling the outfield, and doesn't ride off into the sunset.
What do you think? Let us know in the poll below.