The Philadelphia Phillies need a steady starting center fielder and it appears as though they are zeroing in on the trade market as a way to get it.
According to the Athletic’s Matt Gelb, the Phillies have held discussions with the Tampa Bay Rays about a potential deal involving veteran center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.
The 31-year-old Kiermaier’s offensive production won’t jump off the page. Over his nine-year career, all with the Rays, he has slashed .249/.310/.410 with 162-game averages of 14 home runs and 56 RBI.
But he’s one of the top defensive center fielders in all of Major League Baseball, having won three Gold Glove Awards and a Platinum Glove — voted as MLB’s best overall defender — in 2015.
Kiermaier would finally provide some stability at the position in Philadelphia for a team that not only lacked offensive production but struggled to get sustainable defense.
Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and Travis Jankowski combined to post a Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) mark of zero during the 2021 season while Kiermaier’s DRS was 13.
He also has been, by far, the most valuable defensive center fielder in Major League Baseball since the 2014 season as his defensive WAR (dWAR) is leaps and bounds better over that span than the next best fielder who has played 75% of their games at the position:
MLB dWAR in CF, 2014-2021
- Kevin Kiermaier: 17.4
- Lorenzo Cain: 11.8
- Jackie Bradley Jr.: 9.7
- Billy Hamilton: 9.3
- Ender Inciarte: 9.2
- Byron Buxton: 7.5
- Juan Lagares: 7.0
- Kevin Pillar: 6.6
- Michael A. Taylor: 5.7
- Leonys Martin: 5.7
Herrera, who does not appear on this list, sits in 12th place with a dWAR of 3.1 — more than 14 points lower than Kiermaier’s production.
There should not be much concern about Kiermaier’s lack of offensive production — which projects toward the bottom of the Phillies’ lineup — not only because of his invaluable defending but because of where else Philadelphia is looking around the market.
The Phillies have been linked to power-hitting left fielder Kyle Schwarber, fresh off a 32 home-run season with the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox. He would create a slugging outfield partnership with NL MVP Bryce Harper, thus decreasing the need for a ton of power from the center field spot.
Team president Dave Dombrowski previewed this approach with the Phillies’ perceived interest in top center-field free agent Starling Marte, who signed a four-year, $78 million deal with the New York Mets on Friday.
It remains to be seen how quickly the Phillies can get this done — and the clock is ticking.
If Dombrowski can’t come to an agreement and get the ensuing physicals finished before Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., the Phillies might have to wait an extended period of time to get it done. MLB rosters and transactions will be frozen Thursday as the collective bargaining agreement expires.
Without a new one in place, the league will enter a lockout where free agents won’t be able to sign and teams won’t be able to make trades.