Kevin Kiermaier was always one of the most popular Tampa Bay Rays.
Now, he’ll be popular with his banker, too.
Kiermaker, the Rays’ center fielder, signed a six-year, $53.5 million extension that will keep him in Tampa Bay through 2023.
The agreement with Kiermaier marks the fourth time that Stuart Sternberg’s ownership group has guaranteed at least six years in a contract with a Rays player. Right-handed pitcher Chris Archer signed for a guaranteed six years (plus two club options) on April 2, 2014. Third baseman Evan Longoria signed for six years guaranteed (plus three club options) on April 18, 2008, then on November 26, 2012, extended that deal an additional six years with a club option for 2023.
“Kevin has established himself as one of the most dynamic and exciting players in baseball, and he also sets a tremendous example off the field with his work ethic, dedication and leadership,” said Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman. “We’re thrilled that he’ll be patrolling center field for the Rays for years to come.”
Kiermaier, 26, won the AL Gold Glove Award for center field in 2016 for the second consecutive season, joining Longoria (2009, 2010) as the only players to win multiple Gold Glove Awards in franchise history. He also became the second AL outfielder since the awards were first presented in 1957 to claim the Gold Glove in each of his first two full seasons in the majors, joining Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki in 2001-02.
Last season, Kiermaier led major league center fielders with 25 Defensive Runs Saved despite missing 48 games due to injury. Defensive Runs Saved attempts to calculate how many runs a player saved or cost his team in the field compared to the average player at his position. His 25 DRS ranked second overall in the majors (regardless of position), behind Boston’s Mookie Betts (32), despite playing 509.1 fewer innings.
Kiermaier beat the odds. He simply outworked his teammates. He made the front office notice him.
The Rays were hunting for outfielders in the 2010 draft. They picked Josh Sale first. Bust. They picked Drew Vettleson third. Bust. They picked Michael Lorenzen 10th. Bust. They picked Deshun Dixon 13th. Bust. They picked Chris Winder 27th. Bust.
Finally, they picked Kiermaier. But not until they picked a third baseman named Nicholas Schwaner and a catcher named Matt Koch and a first baseman named Phillip Wunderlich. In all, it was the greatest collection of nobodies ever picked in front of a somebody.
And that’s a key thing with Kiermaier. Think of all the bonus babies who went in front of him. Think of all the high-priced free agents who disappointed. Kiermaier simply wouldn’t settle for being less than an impact player. He kicked down the doors to this franchise. He made himself a bargain.
For Kiermaier, it turns out that more things are gold than just his baseball glove.