Despite Kiermaier’s statesman status as the longest-tenured Ray, the club has taken an aggressive approach to finding players capable of roaming the grass in center. He remains a defensive stud, but his health is perpetually in question and his offense has slipped over the past two seasons. His two-year slash line checks in at just .223/.280/.386 across 847 plate appearances. Despite roughly 21% less offensive production than average (79 wRC+), Kiermaier’s A-1 defensive abilities and plus baserunning skills maintain his viability as a starter. Margot fits the same profile, but five years younger and he bats from the right side.
The Rays know what they like, apparently, because they are continuing to experiment with power-shy Lucius Fox in centerfield, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Fox has been an infielder for most of his career, primarily at shortstop, though he’s gotten looks at second and third as well. Fox is a tremendous speedster, making him a fit for center from a raw tools standpoint, but he has yet to log any professional time in the outfield. It hasn’t clicked yet for Fox offensively with a .244/.337/.325 line across four seasons in the minor leagues.
Before acquiring Margot, the Rays also picked up Randy Arozarena in the Matthew Liberatore trade. Arozarena now seems likely to start the year in Triple-A, but he’s another option for center. He also happens to be coming off a monster year in Triple-A, where he hit .358/.435/.593 in 64 games after earning a promotion from Double-A. He excelled in a small-sample 19 games with the Cardinals at the end of the year, making their playoff roster as a speed option off the bench. Purely from a numbers standpoint, Arozarena could have the highest-ceiling of all their current options.
The Rays clearly prefer a gold glove roving-type in centerfield, but Austin Meadows could also fill in there in a pinch. It is telling, however, that he has only logged 13 innings in center since being acquired from the Pirates.