Craig Kimbrel is still unsigned as the calendar flips to February. As fate would have it, the Braves would benefit from adding a proven closer to their bullpen, especially given the uncertainties presented by Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter.
According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, people around baseball suspect the Braves are “lying in the weeds for the superstar closer” and may be waiting for his price to drop.
Despite the slow offseason, relievers not named Craig have done pretty well for themselves. Zach Britton got 3/$39M, Jeurys Familia got 3/$30M, Adam Ottavino got 3/$27M, Joe Kelly got 3/$25M, Andrew Miller got 2/$25M and David Robertson got 2/$23M. All of those guys are good, but they aren’t the generational talent that Kimbrel has been through the first eight seasons of his career.
MLB Trade Rumors predicted Kimbrel would get four years and $70M at the onset of the offseason. This late in the game, it seems unlikely he will approach that figure. He won’t sign cheap, but he figures to have a handful of suitors should his price drop closer to the $15M area.
Kimbrel, 31 in May, is coming off arguably his worst season. What’s hilarious is that his worst season is better than just about everyone else’s good seasons, so the context is crucial. He racked up 42 saves for the World Series champion Red Sox with a 2.74 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 13.86 K/9 and 4.48 BB/9 across 62 innings. Kimbrel was his usual other-world self in 2017 when he posted a career-best 1.42 FIP.
How much can (and should) the Braves pay their closer? That’s the question.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Craig gets less than three years. It seems possible (probable?) whoever signs him will have to include a fourth year, even if it turns out to be a mutual or vesting option. In today’s game of shortened starts and heavy reliance on the bullpen, that isn’t an absurd amount to pay, especially if Kimbrel rebounds from his less-than-stellar 2018. He does have a lot of milage on his arm, though, and paying for Craig’s mid-30s isn’t a risk-free proposition.
Braves pitchers and catchers report in 15 days.