Longtime Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier was replaced in the third inning of tonight’s matchup against the Yankees. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that left Achilles inflammation was the reason Kiermaier was unable to return to the field. The club is likely to reveal more details about the injury in the coming days.
While tonight’s exit may go down as little more than a hiccup in what has been a generally healthy season for the center fielder, any injury news concerning a player with as checkered an injury past as Kiermaier is worth mentioning. The timing of these tendon troubles, should they linger, comes at a fairly inopportune for the 32-year-old as well. Through 52 games the veteran has slashed .225/.260/.385 (90 OPS+) with a surprising seven home runs and five stolen bases (in six attempts).
While that offensive output measures up surprisingly well to the other generally cold bats around the league, there’s no doubt Kiermaier and the Rays have hoped for offensive numbers closer to his career norms. More concerning however, is how the former Platinum Glove winner is faring defensively. Defensive metrics ranging from Outs Above Average to Defensive Runs Saved all peg Kiermaier as a middling to slightly above average center fielder this season, a far cry from his elite 2021 play. There’s plenty of time left in the season for defensive metrics, which are notoriously high variance, to paint the portrait of Kiermaier as an elite defensive outfielder. Still, any lower body injury figures to negatively affect Kiermaier’s top-of-the-charts speed and defensive performance.
Kiermaier remains under club control with the Rays through 2023 via a $13MM club option. The likelihood of that option getting picked up, or any free agent interest in the event it’s declined, figure to take a hit if tonight’s injury proves significant. Defensive wizards with passable bats can still collect on short-term deals, as Andrelton Simmons did with the Twins last season, but any prolonged injury would represent a disappointing conclusion to Kiermaier’s contract following last year’s strong campaign.