More than three full months into the 2019 Major League Baseball season and seven months after he initially filed for free agency, 31-year-old closer Craig Kimbrel — the career saves leader among all active pitchers with 333 — has finally found a home. According to a report first posted on Twitter by Fox Sports baseball correspondent Ken Rosenthal, Kimbrel has agreed to a multi-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.
Teams were expected to step up their interest in Kimbrel following the first day of the MLB Amateur Draft on June 3, according to CBS Sports. On that date, teams would be exempt from granting compensation in the form of draft picks to Kimbrel’s former team, the Boston Red Sox. Kimbrel compiled 42 saves in 2018 for the Red Sox, helping the team to its fourth World Series championship since 2004.
The Red Sox would have received the compensation had Kimbrel signed prior to June 3 because they made Kimbrel a qualifying offer of $17.9 million for a single season last November. Initially, Kimbrel was reportedly seeking a long-term deal that would pay him more than that amount in any single season. But as The Inquisitr reported, Kimbrel in April gave indications that he would accept a deal that paid him less than $17.9 million per season.
That appears to be exactly what happened. According to MLB Network reporter Jon Heyman, via Twitter, the Cubs will pay Kimbrel $43 million over three seasons.
The reported contract comes out to, on average, $14.33 million per year.
The Cubs found the cash to pay Kimbrel a prorated salary for the remainder of 2019 when infielder Ben Zobrist went on the restricted list to deal with his ongoing divorce from his wife of 13 years, Christian pop singer Julianna Zobrist, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Kimbrel will reportedly join the Cubs after spurning a competing offer from the American League Central Division-leading Minnesota Twins. According to Twins correspondent Dan Hayes, reporting via Twitter, the Twins “were willing to go two years on Kimbrel. Weren’t willing to go the third and Cubs were.”
In addition to his 333 saves, Kimbrel brings a sparkling 1.91 career ERA to the Cubs, per Baseball Reference, with 858 strikeouts in 532 2/3 innings pitched in a nine-year career that started with the Atlanta Braves in 2010.
The Braves picked Kimbrel, a native of Huntsville, Alabama, in the third round of the 2008 MLB Draft, then traded him to the San Diego Padres in 2015, in a six-player deal. The Red Sox acquired him by trade from San Diego after Kimbrel pitched for just one season there, making the Cubs the fourth team of his career so far.