What is Kiermaier’s trade value?

With multiple media outlets reporting the Rays’ interest in trading Kiermaier, it’s worth asking what his trade value would be in the current market.

Kiermaier is a 3x golden glove and 1x platinum glove winner. Depending on the time period selected and defensive positions you compare him to, Kiermaier owns more cumulative defensive runs saved/outs above average than almost any currently rostered player despite some competition in recent times from Mookie Betts. Kiermaier is also owed $11.5M in 2021, $12M in 2022, and $13M (or a $2.5M buyout) in 2023, which makes him the Rays best paid player (good for Kiermaier!) and substantially cheaper than Betts.

That’s the good news. Here’s the poorly kept bad news: Kiermaier has been a decidedly career average to below average offensive player (particularly when compared to the outfield class). and MLBTR have speculated, that because other teams do not value defense as much as the Rays, that Kiermaier’s value would be fairly low. How low? Well MLBTR has suggested that the apt point of comparison is Jackie Bradley, Jr who has put up similar numbers on offense but worse numbers on defense and is generally well regarded across the league. MLBTR predicts a 2 year $16M contract for Jackie Bradley, Jr

I think these sites suffer from big market blinders, and just as Kiermaier may have been overlooked in the past for his defensive prowess (really only 3 gold gloves?), they’ve forgotten about other defensive talents like Alex Gordon (retired at the end of 2020 rather than continue to free agency) and Billy Hamilton who possesses comparable career defensive statistics (e.g DRS, UZR, etc) and is currently a free agent.

Alex Gordon (36 y/o) might actually have been better than Kiermaier defensively and made $4M before prorating in 2020 and Billy Hamilton doesn’t make MLBTR’s list of Top 50 free agents and made $1M before prorating in 2020. MLBTR cuts off their list at salaries approaching $4M annually, and while the list is not meant to be comprehensive, it gives an idea of what Billy Hamilton’s market might look like.

So if an older Alex Gordon and same aged Billy Hamilton, both LHB with comparable age and defensive stats to Kiermaier were worth $4M AAV or less in 2020, you can see why GMs interested in Kiermaier might turn to free agency currently. This is not to say Kiermaier is only worth $4M AAV in 2021, but I would suggest he is substantially overvalued at his contract for $11.5M in 2021 (three cheers for KK).

As a result, the Rays will either have to be patient/lucky, or willing to make sacrifices to trade him. A trade in the current environment, with few teams looking to add payroll, could require the Rays to carry a substantial portion of Kiermaier’s salary or bundle him with an underpaid Rays player(s) (e.g. a pitcher) to round out the trade's value. That doesn't mean the Rays won't move him, because when the Rays indicate a desire to move a player, they do. Remember, it is the way.

This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.