Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier now a free agent after spending 12 years with the team

Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on from the bench as his team takes on the Tampa Bay Rays during a baseball game at Tropicana Field on September 25, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is Kiermaiers last home game for the Rays. (Photo

Kevin Kiermaier is a familiar face when it comes to the Tampa Bay Rays, and after spending 12 years with the team, he is now a free agent.

The longtime center fielder had a $13 million club option that the Rays declined, making him a free agent. Kiermaier’s buyout is $2.5 million, according to the MLB. Kiermaier join catcher Mike Zunino in free agency, but Zunino could be a likely return to the team.

The decision was expected. The team could re-sign him at a lower salary, but after the video tribute they did for "KK" during the second-to-last home game, it's not likely. The video ended with, "Thank you, KK."

At the time, fans stood and cheered while Kiermaier stepped out of the Rays dugout and waved to the crowd of over 20,000. The Rays is the only MLB organization he has ever known. 

Following Thursday's announcement, he shared a message on Twitter:

Kiermaier was born in Indiana, where he played high school baseball. He enrolled in Parkland College, where he competed in the National Junior College Athletic Association. 

The Tampa Bay Rays selected Kiermaier in the 31st round of the 2010 MLB draft. Kiermaier was a Gold Glove winner in 2015, 2016, and 2019.

This past season, Kiermaier was limited to 63 games this year. He last played on July 9 in Cincinnati and had season-ending surgery on his left hip in August.

Now, after the team declined the 2023 club option – completing a $53.5 million, six-year contract – the New York Yankees could be his landing spot.

READ: Rays' Kevin Kiermaier saves the University of Tampa's baseball season

In August, another fan-favorite left the team: Brett Phillips. The Rays announced they designated him for assignment to make room on the roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report