By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
Nobody wants Craig Kimbrel.
It may come as a shock, but apparently teams around Major League Baseball aren’t ready to give 6 years and $100 million to the man his agent claims is the greatest closer in the history of baseball.
We are over two full months into the baseball offseason and there doesn’t appear to be any market for Kimbrel. The lack of interest in his services might drive him right back to the Red Sox at a reduced price.
But Dave Dombrowski and company should be wary of bringing their closer back, even if they can get him for far less than initially thought.
He’s just not the type of pitcher you want to make a long-term commitment to.
The 30-year-old Kimbrel is a seven-time all-star and has led the league in saves four times in his career, but there are obvious signs that he is not the same pitcher he once was.
Kimbrel’s ERA jumped from 1.43 in 2017 to 2.74 in 2018. That can almost entirely be attributed to his lack of command. He walked twice as many batters in ’18 than he did in ’17 and saw his strikeouts fall from 126 to 96.
And then there was his disastrous postseason, where he walked eight batters, hit two more, gave up seven earned runs in 10 2/3 innings pitched, and somehow, someway, went six-for-six in save opportunities.
Nothing about Kimbrel suggests he will age gracefully. He’s a pitcher who relies solely on power to be successful. If that power starts to fade, it’s hard to see him being able to survive having to rely more on command.
Kimbrel can live life on the wild side at 98 MPH. Can he do the same at 94?
I don’t think so, and I sure hope the Red Sox have the same concern.
But the Sox are a little more than a month away from reporting to Fort Myers and they still have questions to answer in their bullpen. Joe Kelly is already gone and most of the big names on the bullpen market have now found their new homes.
But Kimbrel hasn’t, and it looks like his chances of returning to Boston are increasing with each passing day. A month ago, the Red Sox all but said they wouldn’t bring him back. Expect their tune to change as Kimbrel’s price continues to drop.
If Kimbrel is willing to take a one-year deal to try and rebuild his market for next offseason, the Red Sox should jump at that opportunity. It would likely cost them less than the $17.9 million qualifying offer Kimbrel rejected to begin free agency.
But if he wants a multi-year commitment, even at a reduced price annually, the Red Sox should walk away. There’s too much risk involved with this pitcher.
If they have to trade for a closer, sign a reliever off the scrapheap, or find an internal option to pitch the ninth, so be it. It’s better than locking themselves into four or five years of a wild ride with Craig Kimbrel.
The rest of baseball is taking a buyer beware approach with Kimbrel. The Sox should do the same.