It has been a long and winding saga in the Craig Kimbrel free agency and now it appears he has a team. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic is reporting that Kimbrel will be signing with the Cubs on a multi-year deal, pending a physical.
Kimbrel has been about as dominant as a reliever can be over his first nine seasons, racking up 333 saves over that time with a 1.91 ERA and 14.7 K/9. Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous and it has lead him to be a seven-time All-Star, winning multiple Reliever of the Year awards, winning Rookie of the Year in 2011, finishing in the top-ten in the Cy Young voting in five seasons and actually finishing in the top-ten in the MVP voting in the 2012 season.
That list of accomplishments alone are crazy, but he also lead the league in saves for four straight seasons (2011-2014) compiling 185 saves in that span with a 1.51 ERA while blowing 19 saves in that four-year span.
Not only has Kimbrel been dominant his whole career, but he has done it for three separate teams. He started with the Braves, played for the Padres for one season and then over the last three seasons in Boston he had 108 saves with a 2.44 ERA and a World Series title last season.
His playoff career hasn’t exactly yielded the same results however. He has a career ERA of 3.92 with 7 saves in 19 games. And last season with Boston he really struggled in the playoffs, posting an ERA of 5.91 in 10.2 innings.
Those playoff numbers are something that could be of concern if the Cubs were to get deep in the playoffs, but overall Kimbrel has been such a dominant closer for his whole career that it’s certainly worth it to have him on your team. Also, the Cubs rank sixth in all of baseball when it comes to WAR out of the bullpen and adding Kimbrel, who has posted great WAR numbers most of his career, will make that unit even better and even more of a strength going forward.
Chicago has also not had a reliable closer this season, splitting that between Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop, but now they are adding one of the top relievers of the past decade to the back end of the bullpen.
In a division that’s extremely tight and looks like it is going to be that way all season, this move is absolutely huge. It’s not only potentially huge for the playoffs, but the rest of the season as the Cubs will try and win a division title after losing the tie-breaking game to the Brewers last season and then losing in the Wild Card game to the Rockies.
You have to wonder what took him so long to get paid. Yes, he is going to be expensive and he was tied to draft pick compensation up until the last week, but bullpens are such a big deal in today’s game and Kimbrel is as good as they come. He might not be quite as good in non-save situations as he is in save situations, but that’s normal from closers and he is still really good in non-save situations.
You really can’t justify him not being signed and chalk it up to anything other than collusion from the clubs when it comes to not wanting to give top players big contracts in free agency.
Owners are free to spend their money how they please just like any other business, but in sports the point is to be competitive and there are plenty of teams who have competitive rosters that can use a closer of his caliber. Something needs to change with the pay structure in baseball, but I’m not going to rant on that anymore.
For now, Cubs fans should be extremely excited about this move because of how elite Kimbrel is and someone like him can be the deciding factor in a division race that feels like it’s going to be tight all season.
Also, seeing how long it takes him to get ready to go and where the standings will be when he’s ready to go will be really interesting and then seeing what type of impact he makes right away.
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