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Rays decline $13M option on defensive wizard Kevin Kiermaier

Sep 24, 2022; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) looks on from the dugout in the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays declined the $13 million option for 2023 on defensive standout Kevin Kiermaier, making the club’s longtime center fielder a free agent.

The three-time Gold Glove winner received a $2.5 million buyout and became a free agent.

Kiermaier spent nine-plus major league seasons with the Rays and batted .248 with 82 homers, 316 RBIs and 112 stolen bases.

“I am the luckiest man on the planet to have been a part of @RaysBaseball for 12 years,” Kiermaier posted to Twitter on Thursday. “They gave me an opportunity and I ran with it. Impossible to express how much I love everything here in tampa/st pete. I was damn proud to wear that jersey every single day.”

Kiermaier, 32, experienced a tough season in 2022 as he was limited to 63 games due to injuries. He didn’t play after July 9 and underwent season-ending hip surgery in August.

Kiermaier batted .228 with seven homers and 22 RBIs.

Tampa Bay is moving forward with Jose Siri as its center fielder but general manager Peter Bendix said it is possible Kiermaier could return to the franchise.

“He means so much to the organization. He’s always going to be someone who is going to be in the Rays’ Hall of Fame one day,” Bendix told MLB.com. “I think we’ll be open to bringing him back next year, potentially. I think he’ll probably want to see what his opportunities are. Obviously, our outfield is pretty crowded. There’s a lot to talk through. But he’s such a huge part of the success that we’ve had for the last 10 years — like, he’s always going to have a really special place.”

–Field Level Media