Red Sox back-end reliever target: Craig Kimbrel
O.K, stay with me here. There are many reasons to doubt that Craig Kimbrel would ever make a return to Boston. For one, the White Sox are squarely in their championship window, and contending teams rarely trade key pieces from their major league roster. Kimbrel is also owed $16 million this year and is coming off a concerning final two months after switching Chicago teams (5.09 ERA, 5 HR in 23 IP)
Yet when you take a deeper dive, a reunion with the Red Sox makes more sense than it appears at first glance. The White Sox were clearly not a match for Kimbrel, and with a number of other big-time relievers in their bullpen already, they could be willing to move Kimbrel if they can get some depth in return.
While his two months with the White Sox may have been a struggle, Kimbrel proved last year that he can still pitch at an elite level. His four months with the Cubs were some of the best of his career (36.2 innings, 23 SV, 64 K, 0.49 ERA), and even when you factor in the White Sox, his walk and strikeout rate were right at his career averages. Meanwhile, his fastball velocity was the same as his first go-around in Boston, confirming that he still has the stuff to overwhelm hitters.
As I mentioned in my free agents article, the Red Sox need to acquire a closer if they are serious about contending for a championship. With the shortage of great closers available, getting a stopper like Kimbrel for a somewhat affordable price is rare. Fortune favors the bold, and if the Red Sox want to stack up to the other great teams in the AL, they will make this unconventional move.