Craig Kimbrel reportedly agrees to multiyear deal with Cubs after months in free agency

The top closer on last winter's free-agent market and one of the best relievers in baseball history finally has a new team. According to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, the Chicago Cubs and Craig Kimbrel have agreed to a contract. The team has not yet confirmed the signing.

Kimbrel turned 31 last month, and while some warning flags exist, he remains on the short list of the best closers in the game. He went 42 for 47 in save chances with the Red Sox last season, striking out 96 batters with a 2.74 ERA in 62 1/3 innings. Opponents hit .146/.260/.305 against him with nearly three strikeouts for every two base-runners.

The 2019 amateur draft took place earlier this week, meaning Kimbrel (and Dallas Keuchel) is no longer tied to draft pick compensation. The Cubs will not surrender a pick to sign him and the Red Sox will not receive a pick for losing him. Draft pick compensation was reportedly one reason Kimbrel remained unsigned even thought pretty much every contender could use him.

Chicago's bullpen has struggled at times this year, with the team's relievers combining for a 4.02 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP in 197 innings. Their 1.88 K/BB ratio is a bit of an eyesore too. With Kimbrel presumably set to take over as closer, manager Joe Maddon's bullpen figures to look like this going forward:

Brandon Morrow, who was signed to be the closer last year, has not pitched since July 15 due to injuries. It's possible he could return at some point to make Chicago's bullpen even stronger, though Morrow's return is not imminent.

Kimbrel has reportedly been throwing on his own these past few weeks and months, though it is likely he will have to pitch in some minor-league games before joining the Cubs. His arm is in shape and that's half the battle. He still has to get game ready and prepare to face big-league hitters. It could be a week or two until he's available.

The Cubs are 34-26 and one game ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central after Wednesday's 9-8 victory over the Rockies. It had been previously reported that Ben Zobrist's family-related stint on the restricted list could free up enough money -- players are not paid while on the restricted list -- to sign Kimbrel, and that seems to be exactly what happened.

Here is what SportsLine says about Kimbrel's impact on the Cubs:


WinsWin %Postseason % Division %NLCS %World Series %

without Kimbrel

93.1

57.5%

88.3%

52.4%

19.9%

9.4%

with Kimbrel

93.5

57.7%

88.5%

55.6%

21.3%

10.3%

Change

+0.4

+0.2%

+0.2%

+3.2%

+1.4%

+0.9%

With 333 career saves, Kimbrel is currently 14th on the all-time list, and even after sitting out the first few weeks of 2019, he has a chance to climb into the top 10 by season's end. Kimbrel's 333 career saves are the most ever for a pitcher through his age 30 season. Here's the leaderboard:

  1. Craig Kimbrel: 333 saves
  2. Francisco Rodriguez: 294 saves
  3. Huston Street: 275 saves
  4. Kenley Jansen: 268 saves
  5. Rod Beck: 260 saves

Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves king with 652, had only 165 saves to his credit through his age 30 season. Kimbrel is well ahead of that pace. That said, Rivera pitched at an extremely high level through age 43, which is not easy to do. Still, Kimbrel does have a chance to break Rivera's all-time saves record at some point as long as he stays healthy.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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