A new report suggests that it might not be much longer before free agent closer Craig Kimbrel finally signs a contract with a new MLB team after spending the last three seasons with the Boston Red Sox.
In a report published Tuesday on MLB.com, Jon Morosi wrote that Kimbrel was, as of Monday, moving “closer” to deciding on where to sign for the 2019 season. While the Milwaukee Brewers were mentioned as one of the teams that are interested in signing the seven-time All-Star closer, Morosi added that the situation is still “sufficiently fluid,” meaning it’s still far from certain which team Kimbrel will join.
Regarding the Brewers’ attempts to sign Kimbrel, Morosi wrote that the team’s interest “comes with a qualifier.” He pointed out that the odds of Milwaukee signing Kimbrel are linked to one key variable — whether reliever Jeremy Jeffress is able to perform well enough and stay healthy as he continues to deal with weakness in his right shoulder. Due to these shoulder issues, the veteran right-handed reliever has yet to pitch an inning in the majors this season.
As further explained, the Brewers could give Craig Kimbrel “more serious consideration” in the coming days if Jeffress, who was scheduled to return to the active roster on Tuesday, struggles like he did during his rehabilitation appearances for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate, the San Antonio Missions.
Aside from Jeffress, who registered a 1.29 ERA over 73 games in the 2018 season, the Brewers are also dealing with other issues with their bullpen. Earlier this year, late-inning reliever Corey Knebel was ruled out for the season after he decided to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, as previously reported by ESPN.
In addition, Morosi cited The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted over the weekend that Kimbrel and his agent, David Meter, are expecting to receive a contract offer somewhere in between the three-year, $52 million deal previously signed by the Colorado Rockies’ Wade Davis and the three-year, $39 million deal Zack Britton has with the New York Yankees.
In any case, such terms represent a decrease from what Kimbrel was reportedly expecting when he rejected the Red Sox’s qualifying offer at the start of the offseason. As cited by NJ.com, The Athletic’s Jayson Stark previously tweeted that Kimbrel was reportedly hoping for a deal “north of $100 million” for six years.
In nine MLB seasons that also included stints with the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres, the 31-year-old Kimbrel has compiled a 1.91 ERA across 532 2/3 innings and had 333 saves, leading the National League in the latter statistic every year from 2011 to 2014. He did, however, struggle with the Red Sox in the 2018 playoffs, where he walked eight batters and gave up seven earned runs in 10 2/3 innings, good for a 5.90 ERA in postseason play.