The BoSox Injection staff’s preview of the Boston Red Sox 25-man roster continues with a look at closer Craig Kimbrel.
It took less than two weeks for Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox to make a splash in the offseason deals. An early Christmas present came to Boston on November 13th when the Red Sox traded for All-Star closer, Craig Kimbrel, from the San Diego Padres.
Kimbrel, who was traded to San Diego less than a year ago from the Atlanta Braves, is coming off his worst season statistically in the Big Leagues when he posted a 2.58 ERA and WHIP of 1.04. It’s kind of tough for Kimbrel to have a “bad year” when he has constantly had an ERA under 2.00 and a WHIP under 1.00 the past three seasons. His saves also decreased, not reaching 40 saves for the first time since 2010, when he only pitched 20 innings. But it’s easy to forget that he played for the San Diego Padres who finished 74-88 and fourth place in the N.L. West. Their offense was also laughable, finishing dead last in all of baseball in batting average, hitting .243 and on base percentage, hitting .300. Knowing that, if your offense is going to be consistently bad, then you probably aren’t going to get in a lot of situations where Kimbrel has a chance to close it out, which explains his decline last season.
Kimbrel is arguably the best closer in the game for the past 5 seasons, if not right now. The 2011 N.L. Rookie of the Year has either tied or been the N.L. leader in saves from 2011-2014. His stature on the mound makes hitters already at a disadvantage. His fastball that averages up to 98 MPH and devastating slider make him one of the best closers this game has ever seen, and he’s only 27.
People were surprised that it didn’t take that long for the Sox to get a big name player. Also, some of those people thought they didn’t get the better part of the deal.
When the Sox got Kimbrel, they gave away 4 prospects, and two of them being in their top 10. Sportswriters thought that Dombrowski gave away a couple of future superstars in centerfielder Manuel Margot and shortstop Javier Guerra. But let’s think about this, who is the Boston Red Sox shortstop right now? Xander Bogaerts. And who is the Boston Red Sox centerfielder right now? Mookie Betts. Due noted, both players also being 23 years old and coming off of stellar 2015 seasons, Bogaerts and Betts won’t be getting their positions taken away anytime soon. With that being said, the Sox might as well trade some of their stacked farm system and get someone who will help them win next year.
With Kimbrel being the 9th inning man, that means that former closer, Koji Uehara, will be having the 8th inning role. With Koji aging and coming off a right wrist fracture he suffered last season, the Sox weren’t sure if he was going to the closer Red Sox Nation fell in love with. If Koji comes back strong, then imagine the 8th and 9th duo with him and Kimbrel. When Koji comes into the 8th inning and throws his 80 MPH splitter, fooling hitters left and right, and then Kimbrel coming in the next inning and absolutely mowing people away, you can really see a lot of offensive success from the other team. You also can’t leave out flamethrowers Junichi Tazawa and newly acquired Carson Smith coming in before Uehara and Kimbrel.
With the improved bullpen, the Red Sox just made themselves one of the favorites in the American League next season. One of the reasons is because of the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel.