The Cubs bullpen is a mess right now and the latest injuries to pop up certainly haven’t helped things out. I wasn’t too upset about the front office not signing one of the big free agent relievers, but with only two weeks left until Opening Day and the current status at the back end of the pen, it would be nice if there was a free agent closer still available.
Oh, what’s that, there is?
Craig Kimbrel has put up the best numbers as a closer out of any other active closer in baseball. Sure, he had a rough playoff run with the Red Sox, but are you going to take a sample size of 10.2 innings over Kimbrel’s career that has amassed 532.2 innings?
Since his debut in 2010, Kimbrel has a 1.91 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, with 333 saves. He’s saved at least 31 games in each of the past eight years and in 2018 with Boston he had a 2.74 ERA.
The Cubs entered the offseason already knowing that Brandon Morrow wasn’t going to be ready for Opening Day. Pedro Strop is now dealing with a mild hamstring strain in his right leg and although he says it’s no time to panic and that he’s 99.99% sure he’ll be ready in two weeks, it just seems like the Cubs are praying he’s good for the first series in Texas.
Strop is a gamer and as cool of a story that it was when he returned from his other hamstring injury for the Wild Card Game in 2018, he was still in incredible pain last October against the Rockies. You don’t want that again to begin 2019, and then his minor injury becomes a major problem.
Besides the concerns with Morrow and Strop, new Cubs reliever Brad Brach says he’s only throwing in the 80s so far this spring training. He said that’s normal for him, but that’s not exactly what you want to hear if he’s possibly going to be an option to close games out in March and April.
The Cubs haven’t ruled out going after Kimbrel, but Joe Maddon didn’t really give an optimistic answer about that possibility.
Maddon said there have been internal meetings about possible bullpen alternatives via waivers/trades. Said free-agent Craig Kimbrel's name has not come up: "We really didn't discuss that. But, I can't tell you that it's out of the question."
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 13, 2019
Maddon said he and brass discussed possible waiver or trade moves this week. Asked if Kimbrel would be out of the question: “We really didn’t discuss that, but I can’t tell you that it’s out of the question.”
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) March 13, 2019
Stop with the bullshit and get him.
Yeah, other relievers might step up this year for the Cubs and even prospects like Dakota Mekkes and Adbert Alzolay could contribute, but why not narrow the margin of error right now when you know Kimbrel is the best option?
Early in the offseason is was reported that Kimbrel wanted a record-breaking deal, somewhere in the range of six years for $100 million. Well, guess what, Opening Day is two weeks away and that deal obviously isn’t going to happen.
Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen set the market for high-end closers with their respective $86 million and $80 million contracts that both run for five years. Last offseason the Rockies signed Wade Davis for $52 million over three years.
Kimbrel is going to be 31-years-old in May. If the Cubs want to maximize their chances of being World Series contenders this year, then they’ll actually try to go after Kimbrel. Sure, every season good relievers become available at the trade deadline, but honestly, who’s going to be available in the middle of the season who’s as good as Kimbrel? Plus, you just need to spend the money now, instead of also trading prospects in July to get a guy to bolster the bullpen.
We’ll see, but based on this offseason I wouldn’t hold my breath despite how much sense it makes for the Cubs to do something.