Craig Kimbrel, 4-years, $68 million
My top priority was re-signing closer Craig Kimbrel. The $17 million average annual salary is a tick below the $17.2 million that Aroldis Chapman earns from the 5-year, $86 million deal the New York Yankees gave him two years ago, which was the largest amount ever given to a relief pitcher. Kimbrel is in the same elite class of closers but is also two years older than Chapman was when he signed. That’s why I was able to get away with offering one less year at a slight discount from what the Yankees paid for a similar player.
While this year didn’t quite meet his usual lofty standards, Kimbrel had an excellent season. He converted 42 of 47 save opportunities while posting a 2.74 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 13.9 K/9. He was shaky in the postseason but converted all six save chances.
A long-term deal for a relief pitcher on the wrong side of 30 is risky yet so is contending for a title without a reliable closer to lock down the ninth inning. Internal options such as Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are underwhelming and unproven in that role.
My preference would have been to trade for a younger, cheaper ninth inning solution and let Kimbrel walk. I had some discussions with the Site Expert for SoDo Mojo about Seattle Mariners closer Edwin Diaz but he didn’t want to deal the league-leader in saves. Most of the other faux GM’s weren’t putting their closer on the trading block, with Raisel Iglesias and Brad Hand being the only proven options that were traded in this simulation (both went to the Chicago Cubs).
Kimbrel is easily the top reliever on the market. While the price I paid was hardly a bargain, it’s a fair estimate of what he’s likely to earn in reality.