Craig Kimbrel rumors: Brewers in talks to potentially add All-Star closer to one of baseball's best bullpens
The top free agent closer remains unsigned with Opening Day one week away
The 2019 regular season begins in earnest one week from Thursday, and yet one of the top closers in the game remains unsigned. Craig Kimbrel, most recently of the defending World Series champion Red Sox, has yet to strike a deal this offseason.
According to Ken Rosenthal and Robert Murray of The Athletic, Kimbrel is currently in talks with the Milwaukee Brewers. MLB Network's Jon Heyman hears talks are serious, though Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday night the two sides aren't close to a deal. From Haudricourt:
There was no indication that contact between the sides was anything more than exploratory. One source indicated no agreement was close.
The Brewers already are stretched in terms of payroll for 2019, which now projects to about $125 million, highest in franchise history. They might have reached out to Kimbrel to see if he would do a one-year deal, as they did with catcher Yasmani Grandal ($18.25 million) and infielder Mike Moustakas ($10 million).
The Brewers already boast one of the game's top bullpens -- they more or less bullpened their way to Game 7 of the NLCS last year -- but there's nothing wrong with adding to a strength. Adding Kimbrel to a late-inning relief crew that includes Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress would give manager Craig Counsell plenty of weapons in the late innings.
Earlier in the offseason Kimbrel rejected the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer, which means he is attached to draft pick compensation. It stands to reason Kimbrel wants to at least match that contract now, then try his hand at free agency next winter. That said, his priority likely remains a multiyear deal at Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Wade Davis dollars ($17 million or so annually).
The Brewers have been opportunistic buyers this winter, grabbing Grandal and Moustakas on affordable one-year contracts after their markets collapsed. They are likely hoping to do the same with Kimbrel and land him on a one-year deal that would significantly boost their 2019 chances without bogging down future payroll.
Kimbrel, 31 in May, posted a 2.74 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings last season. That represents a down year for one of the best closers in baseball history. His 333 saves are the most in history for a pitcher through his age 30 season..
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