As the time to logically sign Craig Kimbrel comes, the Chicago Cubs seem set to throw their hat in the ring.
Monday is a big day for the next generation of MLB players, with the draft starting that night. But it’s also the day draft pick compensation attached to signing reliever Craig Kimbrel goes away. A few teams have had rumored interested, and according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic the Chicago Cubs are weighing whether a run at Kimbrel makes sense financially.
The Cubs are eighth in all of baseball, and third in the NL, in bullpen ERA entering Saturday’s action (3.93). But there are some cracks, with 15 wild pitches as a unit (tied for fourth-most in MLB), a collective WHIP in the bottom half of MLB (1.44) and as many blown saves as converted (11).
Pedro Strop is close to returning from a hamstring injury that has cost him nearly a month, and that will help ease the burden on Steve Cishek. Additional Injuries to Brandon Morrow (elbow), Tony Burnette (shoulder) and Xavier Cedeno (wrist) have really thinned the back end of Joe Maddon’s bullpen.
After posting a sparkling 1.43 ERA for the Red Sox in 2017, along with a 16.4 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, Kimbrel was not quite as good last year (2.74 ERA, 13.9 K/9, 4.5 BB/9) with control problems that persisted into the postseason (eight walks over 10.2 innings).
Even though they had to give up Gleyber Torres and at one time well-regarded prospect Billy McKinney in the deal with the Yankees, going all in to get Aroldis Chapman worked well for the Cubs in 2016. The flame-throwing left-hander picked up four saves during the run to a World Series title, with 21 strikeouts and six walks over 15.2 innings.
Adding Kimbrel to fortify the bullpen could work similarly for the North Siders this time around. But the Cubs will have plenty of competition for his services.