With the 2019 Major League Baseball season now a full week old, free agent closer Craig Kimbrel, who saved 42 games for the Boston Red Sox on their way to a World Series championship last year, per Baseball Reference, remains without a team. Rumors have linked the 30-year-old, seven-time All Star to a variety of teams, one of them the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies were rumored to “look into” the possibility of signing Kimbrel back in February, according to MLB Network reporter Jon Heyman. But nothing came of that rumor, with the Phillies, by that point, already signing former New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox reliever David Robertson to a two-year, $21 million deal.
But in the early going, the 33-year-old Robertson has been a disappointment, allowing runs in all three of his outings so far, walking five of the 15 batters he has faced, allowing hits to five more, while striking out just one, per BR stats.
The worst meltdown for Robertson came on Wednesday, as Robertson came into the bottom of the ninth in an 8-8 game against the Washington Nationals. He failed to retire a batter, allowed a leadoff single, and followed with with three straight walks to force in a run and end the game, giving Philly its first loss of the young season, per an MLB.com game summary.
Robertson, who told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his performances have been “stinking” so far this year, inspired one local baseball columnist to hand out some advice to the Phillies’ front office.
“The Phillies would be well-served to check back in on Kimbrel,” wrote Inquirer columnist Scott Lauber on Thursday, noting that in 18 career innings pitched at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Kimbrel has yet to allow a single run.
But Lauber was not alone in calling on the Phillies to make Kimbrel an offer, following Wednesday’s disastrous bullpen outing, which also included eighth-inning reliever Seranthony Domínguez coughing up a two-run lead immediately after the Phillies scored four in the top of that inning to overcome a 6-4 deficit, per BR.
CBS Sports baseball writer Matt Snyder also took the bullpen implosion against Washington as a cue for the Phillies to pursue the free agent, who would be the overall MLB career saves leader among active pitchers, with 333.
“Kimbrel bumps everyone back a spot as well, so the bullpen would deepen by two,” Snyder wrote. “Robertson has been a disaster thus far. He has been accountable, but he’s not pitching well. Throwing Kimbrel in the mix beefs things up.”
With an estimated payroll of just under $190 million, per CBS Sports, the Phillies still have $16 million to spend before they hit the “luxury tax” threshold of $206 million, but whether Kimmel would accept a deal less than the $17.9 million qualifying offer he rejected from the Red Sox, per MLB.com, following the World Series last year remains an open question.