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, and he should be a coveted asset on the free-agent market this offseason.
Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the right-hander.
These teams could use Kimbrel's elite swing-and-miss stuff
Jan 20: Craig Kimbrel is the last of the high-end relievers remaining on the free-agent market, as Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, David Robertson, Jeurys Familia, Joe Kelly and Adam Ottavino all have signed. Cody Allen is also off the market, leaving one less proven closer out there.
There's no shortage of teams that could benefit from having Kimbrel in their bullpen, but the right-hander's steep price tag has limited his market to a certain extent. But taking that out of the equation a bit, MLB.com's David Adler ran down a list of 13 potential fits for the 30-year-old, with the Red Sox, Phillies and Braves -- the three clubs that have been most often connected to Kimbrel this offseason -- seen as the favorites. Find out who else made the list here.
As for why Kimbrel still should be considered a top-of-the-scale reliever at this point in his career, MLB.com's Andrew Simon dubbed Kimbrel as the pitcher with the most swing-and-miss ability among players still available on the open market.
"One of the game's elite closers over the past eight seasons, Kimbrel would also lead this remaining class of free-agent pitchers in fastball velocity (97.1 mph) -- albeit down from 98.3 mph in 2017 -- and best secondary pitch," Simon writes. "Working off that heater, Kimbrel threw his curveball about 35 percent of the time last season, and batters went 5-for-61 (.082) against it, with one extra-base hit and 33 strikeouts. Between those two pitches, the righty racks up lots of strikeouts. Batters missed on 40 percent of their swings against him in 2018, the third-highest rate out of 499 pitchers (minimum 200 swings)."
Could Kimbrel sign 1-year deal with Red Sox?
Jan. 18: The pool of free-agent relief options is becoming shallower by the day, and the Red Sox have a clear need at the back of their bullpen as they prepare to start their title defense. So in theory, re-signing Craig Kimbrel makes perfect sense.
But on Thursday, for at least the third time this offseason, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski indicated that he doesn't expect to invest big money in the closer spot.
Video: Red Sox not worried about signing proven closer
It's understandable, as Boston needs to be cognizant of the luxury-tax threshold -- the club would face steeper penalties for exceeding it by more than $40 million for the second straight season -- as well as the fact that many key players are set to hit free agency soon.
That said, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal suggests a one-year deal for Kimbrel could work if the Red Sox aren't concerned about the luxury-tax penalties. A one-year contract would allow Boston to return with mostly the same roster as the one that won the World Series in 2018, but wouldn't hinder the club's ability to operate as Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts, Rick Porcello, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. enter free agency over the next two offseasons.
MLB.com's Mark Feinsand previously predicted Kimbrel would return to the Red Sox on a one-year deal and noted that the right-hander could be open to it because the relief market won't be nearly as strong 11 months from now.
The Phillies loom as a team that could extend a lucrative multiyear offer to Kimbrel, but they aren't expected to make any more major transactions before the Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado situations are resolved. As a result, Kimbrel will likely continue to wait.
Kimbrel's top suitors now have one fewer big-name alternative
Jan. 17: And then there was one. Craig Kimbrel is now far and away the best and biggest name left on the free-agent reliever market.
Adam Ottavino, who is coming off a career campaign that vaulted him toward the top of the available late-inning arms this offseason, has agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal with the Yankees, according to multiple reports.
What does this mean for Kimbrel? Mostly good things. For one, it's typically beneficial to be the clear top player at your position still on the board. This increases demand, and because the Yankees were never in on Kimbrel, it doesn't impact the supply -- that is, the teams that could use or have been connected to the seven-time All-Star closer this winter.
Video: Justice on Kimbrel's market after Ottavino signing
As for the clubs that do fit that criteria? The Red Sox, Braves and Phillies all have been linked to Kimbrel, and obviously, none of them landed Ottavino as an alternative to bolster their bullpens. Of that trio, the most heat has been surrounding Boston of late, simply because the reigning World Series winner's bullpen is lacking with Kimbrel out of the picture after being their closer the past three years. Not to mention, setup reliever Joe Kelly inked with the Dodgers this offseason.
The question, though, is whether the Red Sox will ante up to bring back Kimbrel, who reportedly has been seeking a long-term, big-money deal in the range of five years and $80 million. By all indications from president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, Boston is not looking to spend anything close to that range for someone to handle the ninth inning. But would the Red Sox feel pressure to try to re-sign Kimbrel -- perhaps at a high average annual value over, say, three seasons? -- now that the AL East-rival Yankees have stockpiled arguably baseball's best bullpen?
The Braves fall in a similar category in that they have a need for Kimbrel but don't seem willing to spend what the righty reliever is hoping to get. That said, a return to Atlanta, with whom the 30-year-old spent his first five big league seasons, would make the reigning NL East champs better -- and be a fun narrative.
As for the Phillies, they have the financial resources to splurge this offseason, and that could include Kimbrel. In recent days, reports have speculated that Philadelphia would like to land one of free-agent superstars Bryce Harper or Manny Machado -- who are considered the club's priorities at the moment -- and then go after another big name or two, including lefty Dallas Keuchel to shore up the rotation and/or Kimbrel to solidify a bullpen that already has added David Robertson.
Red Sox still waiting on Kimbrel?
Jan. 16: Spring Training gets underway in less than a month, and the World Series champion Red Sox still don't have a definite closer. Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel -- who has held that role with Boston the past three seasons -- also remains available in free agency. Is this lining up to be a reunion after all?
"The closer situation is the big [area of need for the Red Sox]," Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe said in an appearance on MLB Network's High Heat. "I think they're kind of waiting out Craig Kimbrel. If he doesn't get any great offers from anybody, then I think he's going to be back. He'll probably have to take much less than the five or six years he was seeking.
"Although, the Phillies are out there and they've got all this money," Cafardo continued, "and I know they're interested in him."
The Red Sox have indicated all along that they don't anticipate a large expenditure to cover the closer role. While initial reports speculated Kimbrel was asking for something in the range of $80 million to $100 million over five or six years, that is looking less and less likely, which means a return to the Red Sox is at least becoming more of a possibility -- depending on the terms and how desperate either side gets. If Boston doesn't bring Kimbrel back, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are expected to be in the mix to handle the ninth inning.
The Phillies, as Cafardo noted, are one club that is something of a wild card for Kimbrel, as they have plenty of money to spend and could add him to further bolster a bullpen that now includes David Robertson. Philadelphia's ongoing pursuits of superstar free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado appear to be higher on the priority list at the moment, but once they play out, it's possible the Phillies could turn their attention to Kimbrel.
Phils have 'visions' of signing Kimbrel -- along with two other star FAs
Jan. 15: Craig Kimbrel may have to wait out the dominoes of the Hot Stove season, as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain on the market. However, if the Phillies have their way, Craig Kimbrel could be part of what would be a huge haul this offseason.
According to a report on Tuesday from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Phils have their eyes on signing not only Harper, arguably the top position player, but also left-hander Dallas Keuchel -- the market's top remaining starter -- and Kimbrel, the top free-agent closer. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman echoed Nightengale's assertion.
Add Philly's acquisitions of Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura, and signing those three would assuredly propel the club into the conversation to become favorites in the National League East.
Philly has been linked to Kimbrel all offseason, but the club has had its sights more squarely set on the top two available players: Harper and Machado. Many in baseball circles even suggest that the Phils' offseason will be a disappointment if they do not land one or the other. Others have suggested that they could sign both, though Matt Gelb of The Athletic (subscription required) reported earlier on Tuesday that doing so would be unlikely.
Nightengale reported earlier this week that many front office officials believe that should Philly sign Harper or Machado, they will still go after some of the other top talent available.
The Phillies surprised many early in the 2018 season by competing for the top spot in the NL East. But they faded rapidly toward the end of the season, falling to third place with a record of 80-82. With promising young prospects soon to reach the big leagues, the club is apparently looking to bolster the club with superstar power and, per Nightengale, potentially a former American League Cy Young Award winner to slot in behind right-hander Aaron Nola, and/or one of the premier closers in the game.