Free agent closer Craig Kimbrel, 30, remains unsigned this offseason, with baseball writer Jon Heyman saying via Twitter that the Philadelphia Phillies may be interested in inking Kimbrel to a deal. This won’t happen until they know the fate of Bryce Harper, the most high-profile free agent still on the market, who is also being reportedly targeted by the Phillies.
Other rumors, according to Inquisitr, say that the Atlanta Braves are “lying in the weeds” waiting to pounce on Kimbrel, presumably after Harper signs with a team somewhere.
But according to CBS Sports baseball analyst Jim Bowden, Kimbrel, with 333 saves, has more than any active closer, and will not receive anywhere near the lucrative deal that he is looking for. In fact, Bowden said that Kimbrel, of all the free agents currently unsigned, “is the guy that’s going to get hurt the most in terms of years and dollars.”
Kimbrel had reportedly sought to become the highest-paid closer in the game, a distinction that now belongs to the New York Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman, who is pitching under a five-year contract with an average annual salary of $17.2 million, according to the sports financial site SpoTrac. Next on the list is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen, also on a five-year deal and making an even $16 million per season.
Chapman is 30-years-old, as is Kimbrel, while Jansen in 31. Both have nine seasons in the big leagues, the same as Kimbrel. But per Baseball Reference stats, Kimbrel has recorded 65 more saves than Jansen, and 97 more than Chapman.
In 2018, Kimbrel earned $13 million, according to SpoTrac, significantly less than either of his two close rivals.
But following the Red Sox victory in the 2018 World Series, the Boston brass made Kimbrel a “qualifying offer” of $17.9 million, making him the highest-paid reliever in Major League Baseball, according to The Boston Globe. But Kimbrel turned down the offer. According to Bowden, Kimbrel now stands to make significantly less than the amount he spurned from the Red Sox.
The reason, according to CBS Sports, may be his declining performance. In 2018, Kimbrel’s rate of allowing one home run per nine innings pitched was the worst of his career.
He walked 31 batters — with no intentional walks — in 62 1/3 innings, also a career-worst rate of nearly one walk every two innings, per BR stats.
“This isn’t about the money — any team can afford any free agent, provided there’s anything resembling organizational will,” wrote CBS Sports stat analyst Dayn Perry. “This is about the possible notion that Kimbrel can still be a lockdown closer. He probably can’t be that.”