Now that the MLB draft is over, free agent pitcher Craig Kimbrel is reportedly headed to the Chicago Cubs.
With the MLB Draft taking place this week, the pick compensation attached to free agent pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel evaporates. After earlier reports they were considering the move, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has reported the Chicago Cubs have agreed to a deal with Kimbrel.
Rosenthal has since added it will be a three-year deal worth around $45 million.
Kimbrel went 42-for-47 in save opportunities for the Boston Red Sox in 2018, with a 2.74 ERA and 96 strikeouts over 62.1 innings (13.9 K.9). Control surfaced as an issue, with a 4.5 BB/9 during the regular season and eight walks over 10.2 postseason innings during Boston’s run to a World Series ring.
The Minnesota Twins emerged alongside the Cubs as a top suitor for Kimbrel in recent days, as the Atlanta Braves never seemed to really enter the fray, while the Tampa Bay Rays had some rumored interest, too.
The Cubs suggested they couldn’t spend big money during the offseason. But the personal situation of Ben Zobrist, since he has been on the restricted list as he goes through a divorce and may not be back with the team this season, has brought some flexibility. Players on the restricted list don’t get paid, so some chunk of Zobrist’s $12.5 million salary this year will be removed from the team’s books.
The exact money on Kimbrel’s deal will be interesting to see, and how it is paid out. This year will give him a prorated portion of a full season’s salary; the structure in terms of guaranteed years and options that follow will be of particular note.
The Cubs recently got Pedro Strop back as a late-inning reliever, and he promptly locked down a save in his first appearance back from a hamstring issue Tuesday night. Kimbrel’s resume (333 career saves) means he’ll probably get the ninth inning pretty much to himself.
With a bullpen that is just 12-for-23 in save opportunities (52.2 percent conversion rate, tied for third worst in MLB) so far this year, the Cubs have addressed a glaring need in a big way.