The Cubs signed Kimbrel to help their bullpenDate: June 6, 2019
By: Ben Harris
On Wednesday night, news came out of Chicago that All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel had agreed to join the Cubs on a three-year, $43 million deal.
After a disappointing second half that carried into last season's playoffs, the Cubs are banking on Kimbrel being his old self. Kimbrel's stay in Boston ended with a World Series victory, but surely not due to any of his playoff contributions.
Between the ALDS versus the Yankees and the ALCS versus the Astros, Kimbrel posted a miserable 7.11 ERA in just six-and-one-third innings pitched in the two series. Kimbrel allowed six hits and five runs while also hitting two batters and walking six.
He even loaded the bases twice in the playoffs. He was able to stop the stumbling and help Boston get to the World Series, but the Red Sox front office had clearly seen enough to not bring the seven-time All-Star back to Fenway.
Many see this signing for the Cubs not as them truly putting their faith in Kimbrel, as much as a necessary risk they had to take. The Cubs closers and relievers have not been getting it done late in games so far this season.
Their bullpen has 11 blown saves, which is currently the third most in the Major Leagues. Reliever Steve Cishek has a 3.12 ERA, while Pedro Strop has a 4.63 ERA. They are six for eight and five for seven in their respective save opportunities for Chicago, an inconsistent and concerning problem in the pen.
The three-year contract will pay Kimbrel a guaranteed $14.3 million a year, coming to a total of $43 million. The 31-year-old is now the fourth highest paid closer in baseball, behind only Wade Davis, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman.
Experts are seeing the contract as a little bit high for someone coming off such a nightmare of a postseason, but it is still a much lower number than Kimbrel and his agent were originally after.
Reports came out in late March that Kimbrel's agent Dave Meter was still looking to get the former Rookie of the Year winner a five-year deal in the $100 million range. Obviously, this deal took some humbling, but can still be considered a "prove it" deal.
The Cubs really need this deal to pay off. They have not had a consistent reliever since the loss of Brandon Morrow last season. They are currently locked at the top of the NL Central, tied for first place with Milwaukee. If Kimbrel can get back to his old ways of All-Star level pitching, the risky deal will paint General Manager Theo Epstein as a genius.
Ben Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.