Chicago Cubs: Finding a match with the Rays in a Kevin Kiermaier trade
By Jake Misener
Jed Hoyer continues to insist the Chicago Cubs will spend this winter in hopes of returning to the postseason as soon as next year. So far, it’s been nearly silent as far as legitimate rumors go, but it seems like he’ll steer clear of the most expensive free agents, instead focusing on finding value elsewhere.
While free agency is garnering most of the headlines with just eight days until a lockout likely settles over the sport, for teams like the Cubs, getting creative with trades could end up being the more probable avenue for change this offseason. Similar to how Chicago could absorb Eric Hosmer’s contract in a potential trade with the San Diego Padres, Hoyer could look to do the same – on a much smaller scale – in a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for outfielder Kevin Kiermaier.
Kiermaier is heading into the final guaranteed year of the six-year, $53 million extension he inked with the Rays back in 2017 and is poised to bring home $14.5 million this season. That might not sound like a staggering sum, but when you’re an organization like Tampa Bay – which is used to working with much more limited resources than a team like the Cubs – you can do a lot with those funds.
If the club decides to move on from the fan-favorite outfielder this winter, there are an array of teams that could conceivably fit as a trade partner. MLB Trade Rumors broke down a list of hypothetical suitors – and it included Chicago. Here’s some of what they had to say about Hoyer’s club:
"While Chicago could have been slotted in the “not sure how hard they’ll be trying to contend” group, the Cubs did have trade talks with the Rays about Kiermaier this past summer, even if Kiermaier’s inclusion may have been more about salary offset than a direct interest. Still, Kiermaier would certainly fit as a regular center fielder, with Rafael Ortega then moving into something of a fourth outfield role."
The piece goes on to point out that top prospect Brennen Davis could be up as soon as next year, which would make Kiermaier a potential stopgap option to fill the void in the meantime. Given he’s heading into his final year of control (his deal also contains a team option for 2023), the veteran fits that bill perfectly.
Could the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays revisit trade talks from this summer?
This summer, when we heard rumblings about a potential deal involving Kiermaier, there was some banter kicked around about Kris Bryant and/or Craig Kimbrel going to the Rays in exchange for Kiermaier and injured right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who we know won’t pitch again until the 2023 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this year.
Obviously, that’s not how things played out, with Bryant going to the Giants and Kimbrel to the White Sox. For now, at least, both Glasnow and Kiermaier remain with Tampa Bay.
Any sort of deal around Kiermaier now would be a salary dump for the Rays, rather than just swapping contracts. But if you want the Chicago Cubs to eat his entire sum for 2022, like I said, it’s going to take prospect capital to entice Hoyer and the front office. Kiermaier remains an elite defender, but is essentially a league average bat at this point.
There’s no smoke on the horizon here, but keeping an eye on these two clubs potentially re-visiting talks this winter isn’t the worst idea given the Cubs’ avoidance of major free agents and tremendous financial flexibility.