Does Kevin Kiermaier Make Sense for the Seattle Mariners? Yes and No.
Are the Seattle Mariners potential suitors for Kevin Kiermaier?
The Tampa Bay Rays just traded Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres, and it seems like the Rays will ship off Kevin Kiermaier as well. Should the Seattle Mariners give the Rays a call?
Gut reaction = no… but…
Kevin Kiermaier is 30-years-old, so he is not the most ideal player for the Seattle Mariners to acquire right now. Kiermaier fits the mold of a team that is looking to compete now and needs a defensive upgrade.
He is one of the best outfielders in the league and has become one of my favorite players to watch. It just wouldn’t make too much sense to bring him to Seattle and make the outfield situation even more complicated.
The Seattle Mariners have an abundance of outfielders on the roster and some outfield prospects that are itching to play in 2021. It doesn’t seem like the right time.
Kiermaier isn’t an all-around star either. He does an amazing job on defense (3 Gold Gloves and 1 Platinum), but he owns a .248 career batting average. The situation would be a lot different if he were a .275 career hitter. But, we shouldn’t stop the conversation and analysis there….
The Seattle Mariners could get Kevin Kiermaier for “cheap”
Kevin Kiermaier is owed $26 million over the next two seasons. The Tampa Bay Rays want to put the burden of his contract on another team. And when a team wants to “dumps” salary, that usually involves helping to pay for the player.
The Seattle Mariners are not tight on the payroll. Jerry Dipoto has done a great job of shedding expensive contracts during the rebuild, so taking on Kevin Kiermaier’s contract is very doable.
If the Rays offer to pay 1/3 of his next two years, Kiermaier becomes a rather affordable player for the Mariners. At the same time, the Seattle Mariners wouldn’t have to give up too much to the Tampa Bay Rays. It could be a young outfielder like Sam Haggerty, or Braden Bishop, who are both expendable for the Mariners right now.
I am hesitant to say Jake Fraley as a trade piece. He would be the most desirable from the Rays’ perspective out of all of our expendable outfielders.
Again, Kevin Kiermaier might not exactly fit the plan of winning the World Series in 2022 or 2023, but it could be a nice addition to the current team at an affordable cost.
The Seattle Mariners need veteran mentorship, eventually
The Seattle Mariners don’t have many veteran presences in the clubhouse right now. Kevin Kiermaier could be a great clubhouse addition for the young Mariners squad. The Seattle outfield is very young, and bringing in a Gold Glove outfielder like Kiermaier could really help the team develop.
We saw Kyle Lewis make some plays in 2020, but Kiermaier could help Lewis get even better at reading fly balls. Kiermaier could help Taylor Trammell improve his route efficiency. Or Kiermaier could help Jarred Kelenic become a two-way star, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Kiermaier seems to be a very great guy and leader. The off the field value of Kiermaier might be attractive to Jerry Dipoto. He has been an important part of the Tampa Bay Rays success the last couple of years. I mean look, he was just competing in the World Series last season…
Also, it is not like Kevin Kiermaier is 35-years-old. He can still run very well at 30-years-old, so if he can bounce back and stay healthy, he has the potential to stick around for the Seattle Mariners uprising.
The Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays have trade history
The Tampa Bay Rays have a good trading relationship with the Seattle Mariners, so it makes me think that the Mariners are more willing to help the Rays out as opposed to other teams.
Jerry Dipoto’s first trade as Mariners GM was actually with the Rays back in 2015. Seattle traded away Brad Miller, Logan Morrison and Danny Farquhar in exchange for Boog Powell and others.
In 2016, the Seattle Mariners acquired the long-haired Taylor Motter. In the next year, the Mariners sent Mallex Smith and two others to Tampa Bay in return for Drew Smyly. Jerry Dipoto also made some smaller trades by sending Jesus Sucre away to Tampa and acquiring Erasmo Ramirez for Steve Cishek.
Before the 2018 season, Seattle received Alex Colome and Denard Span. After the 2018 season, Seattle brought back Mallex Smith and traded away Mike Zunino. The list goes on and on.
Kevin Kiermaier’s improvements
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MLB Trade Rumors noted some promising improvements, despite his low offensive production recently. In 2020, he posted a career-best 12.6% walk rate. Kiermaier also walked at a high rate during the postseason. He posted a 9.7% walk rate during the playoffs, which matched his previous regular-season career-high.
Kevin has also increased his hard-hit % over the last couple of years. Throughout his career, he was sitting around 30%. But in 2019, he bumped it up to 37.7% and 41.7% in 2020.
Kiermaier also improved his xwOBA in 2020, after taking a decline in 2018 and 2019. He also posted a career-best 6.3% barrel percentage last season.
Lastly, Kiermaier has not slowed down (literally). In 2020, he was in the 97th percentile for sprint speed. So, he can still cause havoc on the base paths, which is something the Seattle Mariners did a lot of in 2020.
I think Kevin Kiermaier would make sense for the Seattle Mariners, despite my gut reaction. He could be an important asset on and off the field and help with the development of young players.