Based on statements made to the Boston media on Wednesday morning by president of baseball operations for the Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski, the defending World Series champions appear to be moving on from free agent — and seven-time All Star — Craig Kimbrel, who compiled 42 saves for the club in 2018, per Baseball Reference. This figure does not include another six saves in their postseason romp through the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers on their way to Boston’s fourth title since 2004.
Throughout the postseason, Dombrowski has frequently repeated his position that the Red Sox are not looking to make a “large expenditure” to fill the closer role in the bullpen, according to USA Today.
But in December, MLB Network correspondent Jayson Stark reported via Twitter that Kimbrel was looking not just for a team to make a “large expenditure” on him, but that he would demand a record-setting deal for a closer — “north of $100 million for six years.”
On Wednesday, quizzed by Boston Herald reporter Jason Mastrodonato — who quoted Dombrowski on his Twitter account — the Red Sox boss said that even if Kimbrel reduced his demand to a one-year deal, the team’s stated position on paying big money for a closer would not change.
Instead, Dombrowski said that the Red Sox would likely fill the closer spot without spending any money at all — by promoting one of their current bullpen pitchers to the ninth-inning role, according to Boston Globe reporter Alex Speier, writing on his own Twitter feed.
“I still believe that pitching the ninth inning is different from pitching the other innings,” Dombrowski told Speier, mentioning righties Matt Barnes, 28, and Ryan Brasier, 30, as contenders for the role. The once-likely successor to Kimbrel, 30-year-old pitcher Joe Kelly — who pitched six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts in the World Series against the Dodgers, per Baseball Reference — was also a free agent following the 2018 season. He signed a three-year, $33 million contract with those same Dodgers on December 21, MLB.com reported.
Dombrowksi, however, did not entirely close the door on Kimbrel, saying only “I can’t get into the conversations with free agents,” when asked if he had discussed a return to the Red Sox for the 30-year-old, nine-year veteran, according to ESPN.com.
With the Red Sox apparently uninterested in Kimbrel, the closer’s destination remains uncertain. Two weeks ago MLB Network “insider” John Heyman reported via Twitter that the Atlanta Braves were “lying in the weeds” on Kimbrel. Kimbrel spent the first five years of his career with Atlanta, who picked the then-unheralded pitcher in the 33rd round of the 2007 draft out of an Alabama community college. Kimbrel delivered a 50-save season for the Braves in 2013.