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.
Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with back soreness. The move is retroactive to April 14. While it doesn’t appear to be the precursor to any serious injury, Zobrist has already missed six straight days of activity after feeling his back tighten up last weekend. Should he see the minimum time on the DL, as expected, he’ll be eligible to return by the start of the Cubs’ series against the Indians on Tuesday.
Prior to his injury, the 36-year-old outfielder raked an impressive .326/.408/.465 with three extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances. He last appeared for the Cubs during their homestand last weekend and helped propel the team to a 14-10 win over the Braves with three hits, two walks and two RBI. Provided that he can remain healthy going forward, it’s a promising start for the veteran outfielder, who has yet to return to the All-Star-worthy numbers he posted with the club in 2016.
With Zobrist sidelined for the time being, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the leadoff spot and center field duties over the last week. Happ went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games before passing the baton to Almora, who collected five hits and two RBI in 11 at-bats.