This offseason has been moving at a sluggish pace and that may even be an understatement for former Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel.
Going into this free agency period one of the biggest names on the board was going to be Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. Coming off a good sting in Boston and winning a World Series should’ve made Kimbrel a hot commodity. Unfortunately, the phone hasn’t been ringing for him this winter and the season is set to begin in a few short weeks.
Other big name free agents like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were both scooped up within the last few days, leaving Kimbrel as the last big-name domino yet to fall. There could be a few factors leading to why Craig isn’t getting the attention we all thought he would going into this winter.
He had a poor showing in the postseason in 2018, giving up leads and just not being his lights-out self. Coupled with 2019 being his tenth year in the league, teams may not want to invest too heavily into an aging arm that’s showing some cracks in the armor.
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He’s also looking for an insane amount with his next contract, 6-years $100 million. With Machado going for 10-years $300M and Harper 13-years $330M, teams just aren’t looking to splash that kind of cash on a relief pitcher.
Now don’t get me wrong, Kimbrel has had an insanely great career to this point. He’s been the best relief pitcher in baseball during his time in the majors. But with the lasting memory in people’s minds being Chris Sale finishing off the Dodgers and not Kimbrel, his stock may not be as high as it could be. It’s really hard to say what exactly is keeping teams away from the fireballing righty.
"“ ‘I can’t even say yes to anyone because I don’t have an offer,’ ” is what Holt said Kimbrel told him back in Boston last month. And while Holt assumes Kimbrel has received an offer since then, he can’t be sure."
This is a bit of a revelation as it really opens your eyes to what Kimbrel has been going through this offseason. Of course, there’s always the chance that there have been feelers from teams but that fact that nothing serious has been broached is wild to think about. Even with the postseason slump, Craig put up a strong stat line for 2018 including a 2.74 ERA, 96/31 K/BB ratio, and 42 Saves over 62.1 IP. That’s a hell of a year for a closer if you ask me.
"“I think for us players, it’s frustrating to see,” said Holt. “The fact that we still have so many good players that haven’t signed is frustrating. If you’re a team, you want to put the best team on the field, and you’ve got guys like Craig Kimbrel out there who don’t have a job and you’re telling me you’re not going to be better with him on your team? So, it’s frustrating.”"
Honestly, if you asked me to flat out say why I think he’s sitting at home while teams are getting ready for the season, I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint it. He’s still in great form and for what we know the playoffs this past season was an anomaly and he’ll shake it off for 2019. If you made me pick a reason, it’s gotta be the money.
The amount and duration he’s asking for just seems too high in both regards. With these big hitters getting double-digit years, it’s just unfathomable to me that a pitcher would get close to that. Also, the $100M is a hefty price tag for any team, no matter where they stand against the Luxury tax. There have even been rumors that Kimbrel could sit out 2019 if he doesn’t get a deal worth signing.
It’s crazy to me that a player the caliber of Craig Kimbrel isn’t on a team as we make our way through spring training. But with high demands and a poor last memory of his 2018 season, Craig may be waiting on that phone call for a while. As the season goes on and teams further assess their needs, I see Craig Kimbrel landing with a squad and quite possibly even back with the Red Sox.