ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – As expected, the Rays announced Thursday that they declined the $13-million club option on Kevin Kiermaier for 2023, opting to buy it out for $2.5 million. The 32-year-old center fielder, who has won three Gold Gloves, is now a free agent.
Kiermaier had his 2022 season cut short due to a recurring hip injury that required surgery in August. He last appeared in a Rays uniform at Cincinnati on July 9 and played in 63 games, hitting .228. It was the final season of a six-year, $53.5-million deal he signed prior to the 2017 season.
Kiermaier is fifth in team history in games played with 914. He could return to the team, but that would be unlikely given the number of outfielders the Rays have.
The team announced earlier in the week that pitchers Nick Anderson, Brendan McKay, and Jimmy Yacabonis, and outfielder Roman Quinn were placed on waivers. All four cleared waivers with Anderson and Quinn electing free agency, McKay being sent to Triple-A Durham and Yacabonis becoming a minor league free agent.
Anderson was obtained from the Marlins at the 2019 trade deadline and was a key contributor out of the bullpen, including closing at times during the abbreviated 2020 season. An elbow injury sustained during 2021 spring training limited the righthander to six games that season before undergoing surgery last offseason. Though there was hope Anderson would be available in the back end of 2022, planter fasciitis shut him down while rehabbing at Durham.
McKay was the fourth overall selection in 2017 and has been dragged down by injuries much of the past three years. His most recent setback resulted in undergoing Tommy John surgery in September and he likely will not be available until 2024. The two-way player made his MLB debut with the Rays in 2019, and won two games. His last appearance with the team was in the 2019 ALDS against Houston when he made three relief appearances.
Quinn was signed in July after he was released by the Royals. He went 11-for-42 (.267) in 21 games with the Rays. Yacabonis, who was claimed off waivers from the Marlins in August, appeared in five games with the Rays and did not figure in a decision.
Last week, pitcher Corey Kluber, catcher Mike Zunino, and outfielder Dave Peralta, who was acquired at the trade deadline, became free agents. There is a chance Zunino, outstanding with pitchers and a popular clubhouse presence, could return.
The Rays also announced Thursday that they traded Ji-Man Choi to the Pirates for minor league pitcher Jack Hartman. The popular Choi struggled this past season, hitting .233 with 11 homers and 52 RBI in 113 games. He hit only .164 after the all-star break. In 414 games with the Rays over four-plus seasons, Choi hit .245 with 52 homers and 203 RBI.
The 24-year-old Hartman was drafted by the Pirates in 2020 (fourth round) out of Appalachian State. The righthander underwent Tommy John surgery later that year and did not make his professional debut until this past season. He was 0-1 with a 6.27 ERA in 22 appearances at Class A Bradenton.