Boston Red Sox

Oct 18, 2018; Houston, TX: Boston Red Sox pitcher Craig Kimbrel throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros in game five of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

By Matt McCarthy,

Craig Kimbrel still needs a job and the Red Sox still need a closer.

But that doesn’t mean the Red Sox need Kimbrel.

Dave Dombrowski is willing to run the risk of failing to stock his bullpen with enough talented arms, a decision that could come back to bite him in a few months, but he’s making the right call by shying away from a reunion with his seven-time All-Star closer.

Kimbrel isn’t worth the money and isn’t worth the risk of a long-term deal, but there were other pitchers that were available this offseason that the Red Sox should have been more serious about acquiring.

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.

And his command is slipping. He walked twice as many batters in 2018 than he did in 2017 and couldn’t find the plate with a GPS in October.

My heart still hasn’t recovered from the Craig Kimbrel experience in the playoffs. I don’t need to relive that in the future.

The Red Sox won the World Series in spite of Kimbrel, who somehow, someway went 6-for-6 in save opportunities despite walking eight batters, hitting two more, and giving up seven earned runs in 10 2/3 innings.

They can win another World Series without Kimbrel. They don’t need him.

Oct 24, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) walks onto the field during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

But they need somebody in that bullpen. Just because Kimbrel isn’t worthy of a major commitment doesn’t mean the Red Sox shouldn’t have brought in another pitcher or two to replace him. The Sox are playing with fire with the relief group they’ve assembled heading into 2019.

It didn’t have to be that way.

David Robertson is as reliable as they come and has experience closing games in New York. He signed a very reasonable 2-year, $23 million deal with the Phillies. The Red Sox couldn’t have matched that?

Andrew Miller has major injury concerns, but at just $25 million over two years, the Red Sox could have added a much-needed lefty to the mix without breaking the bank.

Cody Allen had a bad 2018 with Cleveland, but he wasn’t worth a shot at only 1-year and $8.5 million?

The Sox could’ve added proven bullpen pieces this offseason just by spending a little money. They didn’t want to spend, and now they are left with even less than they had before.

Thankfully none of the legitimate concerns about the ‘pen came to fruition in October. Joe Kelly pitched the best month of baseball in his life, and Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier delivered consistently in the big moments, but Kelly is now gone and there is no evidence that proves whether Barnes on Brasier can handle pitching the ninth inning.

Only time will tell, and it seems like the Red Sox are prepared to find out if they have enough in relief.

I don’t know if they have enough, but I know this: bringing Craig Kimbrel back won’t be the answer. He’s trending in the wrong direction.


You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.