BOSTON -- Closer Craig Kimbrel on Monday rejected the $17.9 million qualifying offer he received from the Red Sox and will instead pursue a multi-year deal in free agency.At last week's General Managers Meetings, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he didn't expect Kimbrel to take the offer,
BOSTON -- Closer Craig Kimbrel on Monday rejected the $17.9 million qualifying offer he received from the Red Sox and will instead pursue a multi-year deal in free agency.
At last week's General Managers Meetings, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he didn't expect Kimbrel to take the offer, but was waiting to know for sure before pursuing an arm for the bullpen.
Now that Dombrowski knows, expect him to actively scour the market -- both via free agency or a trade.
It was a trade that allowed Dombrowski to get Kimbrel three years ago, when Boston dealt Manuel Margot, Logan Allen, Carlos Asuaje and Javy Guerra to the Padres in exchange for one of the best closers in the game.
The Red Sox have no regrets about that trade. Kimbrel was an All-Star in all three of his seasons in Boston, saving 108 of 119 opportunities for a team that won the American League East three straight years and won the World Series last month.
The Red Sox -- along with the other 29 MLB teams -- are all eligible to sign Kimbrel as a free agent.
When the 2018 season ended, the Red Sox had the highest payroll in MLB. With several key players (Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., et al.) expected to receive significant salary increases through arbitration, the Sox might be looking to spend less on a closer than it will take to retain Kimbrel.
The free-agent market has several quality relievers, including Adam Ottavino, Jeurys Familia, Joakim Soria, Player Page for David Robertson, Andrew Miller and Zach Britton.
Miller is an intriguing player to watch, having already pitched for the Red Sox from 2011-14. The lanky Indians lefty is coming off an injury-plagued 2018, when he pitched in just 37 games and had a 4.24 ERA.
That drop in durability and performance could bring down Miller's price to a level that gets the Red Sox in the game for his services. It was former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington who traded Miller to the Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez on July 31, 2014.
However, Dombrowski also has history with Miller, as his Tigers took him with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 Draft. Dombrowski wound up trading Miller to the Marlins a year later as part of the blockbuster that brought Jose Cabrera to Detroit.
Dombrowski has mentioned righties Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier as internal candidates to replace Kimbrel in the closer's role. Even if that happens, the Red Sox are still likely to acquire at least one key reliever.
Joe Kelly, a postseason hero for the Red Sox, is also a free agent.
By making the qualifying offer to Kimbrel, the Red Sox have covered themselves in terms of compensation should he sign with another team.
Due to the fact the Red Sox went over the luxury-tax threshold, the compensatory pick they would receive for Kimbrel would be after the fourth round is completed.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.