The Rays announced that center fielder Kevin Kiermaier recently underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee (relayed by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). Recovery is expected to take four-to-six weeks, so Kiermaier shouldn’t have much issue being ready for the start of Spring Training.
While the surgery doesn’t seem likely to impact Kiermaier’s readiness for next season, it does at least add a bit of uncertainty to his outlook in an offseason where he figures to come up in trade rumors. Kiermaier is guaranteed another $14.5MM under the terms of the extension he signed in March 2017. He’ll receive a $12MM salary next season and is due at least a $2.5MM buyout on a $13MM club option covering the 2023 campaign.
That’s not an outlandish sum for a player of Kiermaier’s caliber, but it’s a large portion of the payroll for a Tampa Bay club that always winds up among the league’s lowest spenders. He’s come up in trade discussions numerous times in the past — including the lead-up to this summer’s trade deadline — and the Rays’ front office figures to discuss him with other clubs again this winter. That’s all the more likely in light of the staggering nineteen arbitration-eligible players on the roster.
Kiermaier has only once eclipsed 130 games in a season, with his high-effort style of play frequently taking a physical toll. That said, the all-out mentality is also a big driver of elite defensive marks that perennially place Kiermaier among the game’s best outfielders. That was again the case in 2021, with Defensive Runs Saved crediting the 31-year-old as 13 runs better than average in 894 2/3 innings in center field. Combined with league average offense (.259/.328/.388 over 390 plate appearances), Kiermaier was valued at around three wins above replacement by both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.