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Kimbrel could return to Red Sox

Robertson's deal with Phils puts Boston back in running for closer
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- While it once seemed all but inevitable that perennial All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel would be moving on from the defending World Series champion Red Sox, the momentum has shifted to the point where it would no longer be all that surprising to see the power righty return to Boston.

A major development toward that end occurred on Thursday, when MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported that righty reliever David Robertson agreed to a two-year, $23 million deal with the Phillies that includes a third-year option that could bring the total value of the deal to $33 million.

BOSTON -- While it once seemed all but inevitable that perennial All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel would be moving on from the defending World Series champion Red Sox, the momentum has shifted to the point where it would no longer be all that surprising to see the power righty return to Boston.

A major development toward that end occurred on Thursday, when MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported that righty reliever David Robertson agreed to a two-year, $23 million deal with the Phillies that includes a third-year option that could bring the total value of the deal to $33 million.

The Phillies, who have let it be known they are willing to spend money this offseason, were perceived as perhaps the top front-runner for Kimbrel's services.

Presumably, the addition of Robertson will allow the Phillies to now be even more aggressive in pursuit of an offensive stud like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

Without the involvement of the Phillies, Kimbrel could be there at a price the Red Sox can live with.

The Braves have also been said to be interested in a reunion with Kimbrel, but MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports that the club would be unlikely to give him a four-year deal.

At the outset of the offseason, reports surfaced that Kimbrel was looking for a contract that would total $100 million in value. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman more recently said that Kimbrel had dropped his "ask" to $86 million, which the Yankees paid for Aroldis Chapman two years ago.

But without the presence of other big-market contenders vying for Kimbrel's services, it could be hard for the righty to get the deal he is looking for.

While Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said at the Winter Meetings that he didn't anticipate making a "big expenditure" for a closer this offseason, it could have just been posturing in an attempt to get Kimbrel at a price more palatable to Boston.

The Red Sox lost key setup man Joe Kelly to the Dodgers last month, and they still have a vacancy at the closer's position that Kimbrel has held down so ably throughout his career.

Though Kimbrel had a shaky postseason (5.91 ERA in nine outings), he was an All-Star in all three seasons since his trade from the Padres to Boston. Kimbrel has put together a sparkling career that includes a 1.91 ERA and 333 saves.

Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino also remain on the free-agent market, and they could be more affordable alternatives to potential suitors than Kimbrel.

With a solid supply of relievers on the market that perhaps exceeds demand, the stage could be set for Kimbrel to re-join the Red Sox in their repeat efforts.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Craig Kimbrel