Craig Kimbrel is the lone viable closer left in free agency, forcing the Boston Red Sox to go all-in on re-signing him for settling for internal options.
And then there was one. A free agent market flush with potential replacements for Craig Kimbrel has been depleted, leaving Kimbrel himself as the only available closer for the Boston Red Sox to consider.
Reports surfaced on Thursday that the New York Yankees have reached an agreement on a three-year, $27 million deal with Adam Ottavino. Despite limited experience as a closer, the right-hander was rumored to be a target of the Red Sox who could replace Kimbrel at a lower cost.
It turns out Ottavino could be signed for a much lower cost, with the $9 million average annual value coming in at about half what Kimbrel is demanding.
If the plan was for the Red Sox to find a proven closer without breaking the bank, it seems they missed the boat. Here are the other viable closer options who have signed this winter.
Joakim Soria – A’s, 2-year, $15 million
Kelvin Herrera – White Sox, 2-year, $18 million
David Robertson – Phillies, 2-year, $23 million
Andrew Miller – Cardinals, 2-year, $25 million
Jeurys Familia – Mets, 3-year, $30 million
Zach Britton – Yankees, 3-year, $39 million
None of these relievers signed for more than three years, ranging between $7.5 million – $13 million per season. Are you telling me the Red Sox couldn’t have found room in the budget for one of those guys at those prices?
Of course, they could. Which tells me that, despite the rampant rumors tying the Red Sox to each of these pitchers at various times this winter, the front office never seriously considered any of them.
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The Red Sox are going to pay the luxury tax again in 2019 no matter what. It boils down to how far into tax territory they are willing to go and if they can stomach the draconian penalties of the highest tier. They clearly weren’t willing to risk it for the second and third-tier options on the market. But for the best closer available? One on a path to Cooperstown who is on pace to challenge the all-time saves record? He might be worth the price, tax bills be damned.
The hope is that Kimbrel will be forced to settle for less than expected. Boston’s replacement options are off the table but the suitors in need of a closer have also dried up. The Phillies are lurking as a threat ready to hand Kimbrel a blank check if their other free agent moves pan out to put them in the contender conversation. Aside from that, no other teams have the finances or the need for an elite closer.
Which could inevitably lead Kimbrel back on Boston. The Red Sox are playing the waiting game, similar to how they treated negotiations with J.D. Martinez last winter.
All winter we’ve seen one potential target after another sign elsewhere for fairly reasonable prices. The Red Sox never blinked. It’s Kimbrel or bust and they’ve known it all along.