It was reported as close heading into the weekend, but now Kevin Kiermaier and the Tampa Bay Rays have finalized a six-year, $53.6 million contract extension that keeps the gold glove centerfielder with the team through 2022. With incentives, the deal could reach $66.15 million.
Kiermaier hit .246 with 12 homers, 37 RBIs and career-best 21 stolen bases in 105 games, missing 48 games with a broken left hand. His real calling card is his defense, of course, and the Rays experienced a large swing in runs allowed while he was out vs. when he was in the lineup. He runs balls down in center like a cat runs down a mouse.
Kiermaier was just entering arbitration and had reached a deal that would’ve paid him around $3 million this season. Assuming he stayed healthy and effective, over time, he could’ve possibly made far more money than the $66.15 million he could max out with over the life of this deal had he decided to take things out and hit free agency. But all such decisions are gambles. If he becomes injury prone or loses a step or two in the outfield, everything changes. Having more than five units in the bank, as the oil men used to say, is something that would’ve been hard to walk away from.