Boston Red Sox

Sep 21, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; A St. Louis Cardinals fan mocks Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (24) as he walks off the field after pitching in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. The St. Louis Cardinals won 9-8. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt McCarthy,

There is no doubt the Red Sox made a colossal mistake by failing to replace closer Craig Kimbrel entering the 2019 season.

But there likely is no regret on Jersey Street about not re-signing Kimbrel himself.

Nor should there be.

Kimbrel has been nothing short of a disaster in Chicago. He has become the face of the Cubs September collapse, putting the nail in his team’s coffin over the weekend with two calamitous performances against the NL Central-leading Cardinals.

On Thursday, Kimbrel gave up the game-winning home run to Matt Carpenter. On Saturday, he served up the game-tying and go-ahead home runs in the ninth inning to blow a critical save.

The Cubs woke up today four games out of the playoffs with less than a week to go. Kimbrel sunk their season.

Red Sox fans shouldn’t be surprised. Kimbrel proved last October that he’s not cut out for locking down games that actually matter. Nobody is better in May against the Orioles with a three-run lead, and there are few closers I’d trust less than Craig Kimbrel with a one-run lead in September or October.

Perhaps even scarier for Cubs fans is that Kimbrel was never his dominant self even when it didn’t matter. They didn’t get the good version of Kimbrel at all.

The seven-time All-Star has given up 15 runs over 20 2/3 innings pitched, good for a career-high 6.53 ERA. Despite only pitching a third of the season, the righty set a new career-high in home runs allowed with nine. Had Kimbrel pitched a full season, he would’ve been on pace to set a new career-worst in walks, strikeouts per nine innings, and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

It’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever be the same pitcher again. At 32 years old and coming off back-to-back seasons trending in the wrong direction, I doubt he will be.

Oct 17, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (8) and relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) meet at the mound during the eighth inning against the Houston Astros in game four of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

This all comes after Kimbrel asked for the sun, moon, and stars in free agency. His agent declared him the greatest closer of all-time. He reportedly wanted a record-breaking six-year deal worth north of $100 million.

No surprise, there was no market for Kimbrel at that asking price. However, it was a surprise that there was no market for Kimbrel period.

The Cubs waited him out and thought they got a steal in June with a three-year, $43 million contract. It turns out they didn’t. They got the man that helped embody their disappointing season.

The Red Sox didn’t need any help to sink their 2019 season, but at least they don’t have Craig Kimbrel around to weigh them down in 2020 and beyond. That is a silver lining on the dark cloud that hangs over the Sox heading into one of their most critical offseasons in recent memory.

In a year filled with bad decisions, the Red Sox opting not to re-sign Kimbrel proved to be the best decision they made all season.

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.

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