Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier has long been a key staple of the franchise, but his status with the team for 2023 is in doubt. While he would like to return, the Gold Glove outfielder admitted one major factor could force him to leave town.
Kiermaier admitted that playing home games on the artificial turf at Tropicana Field is a “big issue” and that playing on grass might be better for his long-term health.
“Part of me is like, would I benefit from playing on grass everyday, maybe,” Kiermaier said Saturday, via Mark Didtler of the Associated Press. “I’ve got so accustomed to everything here. There’s so many pros and cons, way more pros, but the turf that’s definitely a big issue.”
Kiermaier has plenty of reasons to think about his health. The 32-year-old is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing hip surgery. That health issue comes on the heels of arthroscopic knee surgery that he required in the offseason. Ultimately, Kiermaier will end up playing 185 games over the 2021 and 2022 seasons due to his various injuries.
A three-time Gold Glover winner, Kiermaier is known for his range and highlight reel plays — so much so that he’s offered to put himself to work for other star athletes. One can certainly see how his style of play, combined with the artificial turf, could ultimately shorten his career.
Kiermaier has a team option for 2023, though it is likely to be declined. Assuming that is the case, he will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.