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5 potential landing spots for Kevin Kiermaier

Mitchell Layton / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Tampa Bay Rays seemed to be at least fielding offers for three-time Gold Glove winner Kevin Kiermaier moments before Major League Baseball instituted its lockout.

While no baseball business can be done until the owners and union ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, it's never too early to muse about where Kiermaier could land. Here are five clubs that could use the outfielder's services once MLB resumes.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have to come to terms with the fact that Mike Trout's days in center are likely numbered - particularly if they want to keep their three-time MVP on the field. The once elite defender's been merely average in recent years, costing his team minus-1.9 runs over the past five seasons, according to FanGraphs. Additionally, he was held to just 36 games last year due to a calf injury. It'd be best to try to avoid any further harm to his ailing calf by relegating him to a corner outfield spot, at least part time.

That's where Kiermaier would come in. Roughly a league-average hitter, he's not going to hurt a team at the dish and his defense is truly game-changing. Though he's in his 30s, he still saved more than 16 runs over the past two seasons, according to FanGraphs. And, while pitching has been the real problem for the Angels over the past ... forever, run prevention of any kind would be a huge step in the right direction for a club starving for its first playoff berth since 2014.

Houston Astros

Since the loss of George Springer to free agency, the Astros have been looking for a center-field replacement. Myles Straw seemed like he might fit in - at least from a defensive perspective - but the club shipped him to the Cleveland Guardians in a deal for reliever Phil Maton.

Now, it's Chas McCormick's gig to lose after he played roughly one-third of his innings in center last year and did a passable job defensively, accruing 0.5 UZR. It's hard to be certain about what the 26-year-old can consistently deliver, but his impressive rookie campaign indicates roughly league-average defense and hitting.

Perhaps acquiring Kiermaier, who hits left, as a regular platoon with the right-hitting McCormick would work well, though. Here's how the two line up for over the last year by wRC+:

Player vs. RHP vs. LHP
Kiermaier 104 94
McCormick 104 122

Now, Kiermaier isn't a massive improvement against righties, but he is a huge improvement in the field and not a liability compared to McCormick, so the net gain might be worth it.

The Astros seemed unwilling to add much salary, so a deal might be difficult to work out, with Kiermaier potentially owed over $25 million the next two seasons. But it's also worth remembering that Houston general manager James Click was an integral member of the Rays' front office that originally inked Kiermaier to his six-year, $53.5-million extension.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies could use an established center fielder more than almost any club in baseball. 2021 Opening Day starter Adam Haseley is coming off an injury-plagued season, logging just 21 plate appearances, while 2016 first overall draft pick Mickey Moniak still looks a ways away from contributing at the big-league level. Philadelphia also declined an $11.5 million option for 2022 on Odubel Herrera, making the 30-year-old a free agent.

Kiermaier could step in immediately to patrol a difficult center field at Citizens Bank Park while giving the Phillies’ lineup another left-handed bat to complement reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper.

The 31-year-old Kiermaier remains one of the elite defensive center fielders in the game, ranking fourth among all center fielders last season in Outs Above Average, according to Statcast.

With a pitching staff that permitted 1.27 home runs per nine innings last season, Kiermaier's penchant for run-saving catches could help swing games in what's expected to be a hotly contested race in the NL East division in 2022.

Texas Rangers

Texas made a loud statement about its goals for 2022 and beyond with the blockbuster signings of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, as well as the addition of free-agent right-hander Jon Gray. Despite these eye-catching moves, the Rangers still lack an established center fielder.

2021 All-Star Adolis Garcia acquitted himself well in center field in his rookie campaign, tying for the lead league in outfield assists with 16. Rangers general manager Chris Young also added veteran outfielder Kole Calhoun before the lockout, with the 34-year-old projected to slot in at right field.

After adding more than $78 million in payroll commitments for 2022, it's clear Kiermaier's $12.1 million salary won't be an issue if Texas' front office determines he's a good fit.

His addition could allow Garcia to shift over to left field, where his strong throwing arm would be a valuable asset. An outfield trio of Kiermaier, Garcia, and Calhoun would stack up well with other outfields in the American League West as Texas looks to re-establish itself as a legitimate threat in the division.

Detroit Tigers

Kiermaier and Comerica Park's spacious center field seem like a match made in heaven. The Tigers added defensive stalwart Javier Baez before the lockout on a six-year free-agent contract, and Kiermaier would give manager A.J. Hinch a pair of linchpins at arguably the two most important defensive positions on the field.

The calming presence of Baez and Kiermaier could also serve Detroit's burgeoning young pitching rotation well. The Tigers signed World Series champion and former Boston Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and have Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, and Tyler Alexander returning.

Detroit might be another year away from pushing the Chicago White Sox for AL Central supremacy, but pairing an encouraging second-half performance in 2021 with the right offseason moves might make the race more compelling in 2022.

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