Closer Craig Kimbrel has compiled an impressive resume during his nine seasons in the big leagues, recording a microscopic 1.91 ERA with a 0.92 WHIP, 333 saves and a 14.7 K/9 rate.
Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the right-hander.
Cubs make deal with Kimbrel official
June 7: The Cubs made their three-year deal with Kimbrel official on Friday. The contract, which is for a reported $43 million, includes a vesting option for 2022. Kimbrel held an introductory press conference at Wrigley Field prior to Friday’s game against the Cardinals. More >
Sources: Cubs agree to deal with Kimbrel
June 5: The Cubs have reached an agreement on a three-year, $43 million contract with Kimbrel, pending the completion of a physical, sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Wednesday. More >
Cubs reportedly making push for Kimbrel; Braves not a finalist
June 5: The Cubs are “pushing hard” for Kimbrel, sources told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, who wrote earlier this week that Chicago had unexpectedly emerged as a suitor for the free-agent closer.
Meanwhile, an official with a rival NL club told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that he believes the Cubs are now the favorites to land Kimbrel. The Braves have been widely expected to seek a reunion with the closer once there was no longer any Draft pick compensation attached to him, but a separate source told Morosi that Atlanta is not among the finalists.
The Cubs did not spend much money over the offseason and had been approaching the season as if they did not have much to spend. But with Ben Zobrist currently on the restricted list as he goes through a divorce, the team has gained back some financial flexibility, per Rosenthal’s article for The Athletic (subscription required).
Players are typically not paid when on the restricted list, and the money saved is then not counted against the team for the luxury tax. Manager Joe Maddon indicated to a reporter last week that Zobrist may be inactive for the rest of the season. Zobrist is in the final year of a four year, $56 million contract.
The Cubs are in need of bullpen help, and signing Kimbrel would allow the club to use Pedro Strop in a setup role. The right-hander has been filling in as the team’s closer with Brandon Morrow on the injured list, though Strop also missed some time himself with a hamstring injury recently.
"I'm the type of guy that it's all about winning," Strop said on Tuesday night. "If they consider that they need to add another arm in the bullpen, a closer or whatever, they're more than welcome. If they're going to bring somebody, you know it's going to be somebody that's going to help. At least, that's what they're looking for, if they do. So, whoever wants to come, whoever they bring, we're just going to welcome them here." More >
Report: Kimbrel a ‘priority’ for Twins
June 5: The 40-19 Twins entered Wednesday’s action with a 10 1/2-game lead over the second-place Indians in the American League Central and have received strong performances from relievers Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers, Trevor May and Ryne Harper this season.
However, the club doesn’t seem likely to stand pat, at least as far as the bullpen is concerned. A baseball executive told MLB Network insider Joel Sherman that Kimbrel is a ‘priority’ for Minnesota. And according to Sherman, the most common speculation he has heard from the industry is that Kimbrel will indeed land with the Twins.
Several execs told Sherman that Kimbrel is still looking to score a multi-year contract, however, so it’s unclear if anything will get done quickly, even with Draft compensation no longer attached to the closer.
Phillies to be ‘in on everything’ this summer
June 5: The Phillies were one of the busiest teams of the offseason, bringing in Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson, and that could be the case again this summer, especially after McCutchen was ruled out for the season due to a torn ACL in his left knee.
The Phillies, who are just a half-game ahead of the Braves in the National League East, will be “in on everything,” a source told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi on Tuesday.
“Everything” includes free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel, as multiple sources said the Phillies still were involved in the free agent closer’s marketplace as of Tuesday.
The club already traded for Jay Bruce this week, and he is expected to play a much bigger role now that McCutchen is out. But with Odubel Herrera on administrative leave, and Robertson, Pat Neshek, Adam Morgan and Tommy Hunter all on the injured list, the club still has pressing needs in the outfield and bullpen.
Per Morosi, Philadelphia could address the ’pen problem by signing Kimbrel, which would allow the team to preserve its Minor League talent to improve other areas. Potential outfield targets for the Phils could include impending free agent Jarrod Dyson of the D-backs and the Pirates’ Starling Marte, whose contract includes affordable club options for 2020 and ’21. More >
Could these clubs be prime players for Kimbrel?
June 3: Kimbrel will likely sign at some point in the next week, and while teams may harbor some questions about his postseason struggles last October or how rusty he could be after so much time away from a big league mound, ESPN’s Buster Olney identified a large handful of teams that figure to take a long look at he and fellow free agent Dallas Keuchel.
In his Monday column (subscription required), Olney notes that the Phillies don’t have many long-term commitments outside Bryce Harper and Aaron Nola. Philadelphia’s ability to take on Jay Bruce’s contract is another sign, according to Olney, that it might have more payroll flexibility than most of its competitors.
The Twins’ incredible start could justify a push to sign Keuchel or Kimbrel and take advantage of their opportunity in the American League Central, says Olney. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s fan base has clamored for Kimbrel, their former All-Star closer, at various points since free agency began last November. But Olney reports that the Braves’ budget ceiling “tends to be inflexible,” meaning that taking on either pitcher’s prorated salary for the rest of 2019 might not be an attractive option for the club. The Braves’ farm system is also loaded with more top-flight prospect arms than just about any other organization in baseball.
The Rays could also be in the mix for Kimbrel considering how low their payroll is at this point in time, and like the Twins, Tampa Bay could sense that this is its opportunity to take advantage of the injury-saddled Yankees and a middling start by the Red Sox.
Kimbrel may sign any day
June 3: Kimbrel's long free agency may be nearing its end soon.
The draft pick compensation previously attached to Kimbrel expired after midnight on Monday, June 3, meaning he could sign sometime next week. The list of potential suitors for Kimbrel is a long one, as many contenders are in need of bullpen help. Possible landing spots for the hard-throwing righty include the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Braves, Phillies, Padres, Twins and Rays.
Anthopoulos: Braves doing due diligence on Kimbrel, Keuchel
May 27: The Braves have been consistently linked to Kimbrel since he became a free agent this past offseason, and calls for Atlanta to sign him have continued as the club’s bullpen has struggled and battled injuries.
Kimbrel is an obvious fit, and not just because he is so familiar with Atlanta after pitching for the Braves over the first five seasons of his career. Although Luke Jackson, Sean Newcomb and Touki Toussaint have pitched well out of the bullpen lately, the Braves’ relief corps entered Monday’s action tied for 20th in MLB with a 4.39 ERA.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos indicated Sunday in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that the team is doing its due diligence on Kimbrel and fellow free agent Dallas Keuchel with the MLB Draft approaching on June 3. At that point, clubs will no longer need to surrender a Draft pick to sign him, per the rules for players who reject a qualifying offer.
“I would think both guys can certainly help our club,” Anthopoulos said of Kimbrel and Keuchel. “I think it’s fair to say, any free agents that are out there, certainly with the Draft pick being gone for some of these guys soon, I would think would only help their market. And like anybody else I’m sure that we will do our work on it.”
One factor the Braves will likely consider is the possibility that the National League East rival Phillies will also be in the mix for Kimbrel and/or Keuchel.
Philadelphia’s bullpen troubles haven’t been as stark as Atlanta’s, but the club placed Pat Neshek (shoulder strain) on the 10-day injured list Saturday while also transferring David Robertson (forearm strain) to the 60-day IL. Meanwhile, the Phils’ rotation remains an issue, especially now that Jerad Eickhoff has begun to struggle after a hot start.
These clubs could be in mix for Kimbrel
May 25: The MLB Draft is fast approaching, and soon after it the free-agent sagas of both Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel will likely come to an end.
According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal and Josh Tolentino in a story published by The Athletic (subscription required) on Saturday, both pitchers are expected to sign after midnight ET on June 2, as teams will no longer need to surrender a Draft pick to sign them at that point (per the rules for players who reject a qualifying offer).
Per The Athletic’s story, the Rays are keeping in touch with Kimbrel as well as Keuchel. Kimbrel is also expected to garner interest from National League East contenders such as the Braves and Phillies, and possibly the first-place Twins, who entered Saturday with an eight-game lead in the American League Central on the heels of a 9-1 stretch.
Sources told The Athletic that the Rays continue to see Kimbrel as possibly filling a more significant need than Keuchel, even with breakout starter Tyler Glasnow on the injured list due to a right forearm strain.
Although Tampa Bay already has a strong bullpen, adding Kimbrel would give the club more flexibility in deploying Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo.
The Twins, meanwhile, could use some bullpen help despite the success of Blake Parker (1.10 ERA), Taylor Rogers (1.33 ERA) and Ryne Harper (1.69 ERA), and the Phillies and Braves have been mentioned as potential Kimbrel suitors dating back to the offseason. Both NL East clubs have had their share of bullpen problems this season.