Major League Baseball is already two weeks into the 2019 Spring Training schedule, and free agent closer Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned. Kimbrel is the active career leader in saves with 333, which ranks 14th all-time per Baseball Reference. In fact, the closer has not even received any offers, at least none which have been publicly reported.
Earlier this week, as The Inquisitr reported, baseball experts said that Kimbrel was deep in talks with the Washington Nationals, but if those rumors were true, nothing has yet come of them.
Kimbrel has also been linked to the Philadelphia Phillies, to go along with Philadelphia’s recent signing of free agent outfielder Bryce Harper, but according to an NBC Sports Philadelphia report, signing Kimbrel would put the Phillies over the $206 million payroll limit, above which baseball’s “luxury” tax kicks in. As a result, signing Kimbrel would hamper “the team’s ability to acquire a player of greater need in-season,” according to the NBC report.
On Friday, however, Chicago Tribune baseball reporter Paul Sullivan suggested that there could be a new team that might put Kimbrel on its radar: the Cubs.
Just last year, the Cubs signed free agent closer Brandon Morrow, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, paying Morrow $9 million per year in 2018 and 2019, per BR.
Morrow recorded 22 saves and six wins in 35 appearances during his debut season with the Cubs, but did not pitch after July 15 due to an elbow injury that required arthroscopic surgery in November. As a result, Morrow is not expected to be available for the start of the season, according to ESPN.
In fact, Morrow himself said that he could miss the entire first month of the season. According to Sullivan, that could open the door for the Cubs to explore a Kimbrel signing. The former Boston Red Sox closer — who saved 108 regular season games in three seasons for the Red Sox, per BR stats, plus six more in the postseason — will turn 31 on May 28. Morrow will hit his 35th birthday on July 26.
Even 33-year-old reliever Pedro Strop, who is currently slated to serve as the Cubs’ closer in Morrow’s absence, told Sullivan that he would be happy to see Kimbrel on the team.
“I’m never going to say we don’t need a guy like that,” Strop told the Tribune. “No way. If they were able to get him, he’d be more than welcome here.”
One obstacle to a team’s signing Kimbrel has been the reliever’s reported determination to obtain a long-term contract, but according to MLB Trade Rumors, teams are more likely to offer him a short-term deal at a high annual salary.
“How about the Dodgers offering one year at $25 million?” wrote New York Post columnist Joel Sherman on Thursday.
But the Dodgers already have a closer in Kenley Jansen, who is already at $19.3 million per year, according to Spotrac, making him the highest-paid closer in the Major Leagues. Morrow’s $9 million paycheck from the Cubs makes him the fifth-highest paid closer.