The Tampa Bay Rays' longest tenured player's time at Tropicana Field came to a shocking conclusion Thursday afternoon when it was announced the team would be declining his $13 million club option, making him a free agent on the first day of MLB free agency.
12-year Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier left a heartfelt message for Rays fans in a Thursday afternoon tweet moments after Tampa Bay made the announcement.
“Thank you Rays fans for absolutely everything,” Kiermaier said. “I did not know what to expect. I knew all I had to do was throw all my eggs in one basket and be connected to my life in baseball more than anything ever.
“I did just that. Here I am today feeling like the luckiest man ever. I am so thankful, appreciative and grateful for everything thrown my way and for the people of this community. You mean the world to me.”
Kevin Kiermaier underwent surgery to repair his left hip labrum in mid August, ending his 2022 campaign at 63 games during the final year of the six-year, $53 million deal he signed with Tampa Bay in 2017.
The 33-year-old was chosen with the 941st pick in the 2010 MLB amateur draft after playing for two years at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill. He chose to play for Tampa Bay even after signing a national letter of intent with Purdue and telling then-Boilermaker baseball coach Doug Schreiber he would play in West Lafayette after not hearing his name called on the first day of the MLB draft.
Kevin Kiermaier logged over 3,350 plate appearances in 914 games since being selected and called up to the majors in 2013, earning 756 hits and 410 home runs in the process. He won three Golden Gloves, awarded to the best defenders in the MLB, and went as high as 17th in 2015 American League MVP voting during his 10 seasons with the Rays.