I didn’t think the Braves were going to show too much interest in Craig Kimbrel prior to the start of the offseason, mostly because of his lofty price tag. I was proven wrong a bit, as Kimbrel’s name has come up throughout this entire process and even been mentioned several times by the General Manager, Alex Anthopoulos.
With that being said, after his most recent demands, I don’t see anyway the Braves remain in the Kimbrel sweepstakes, unless no other team is willing to meet them either.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN, Kimbrel is looking for a monumental deal in the six-year range.
Teams being told that in initial ask, All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel is looking for a six-year deal.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 30, 2018
That should all but end the Kimbrel talk. If the Braves weren’t willing to pony up a ten-year deal to much younger and valuable players in their prime, they sure are not about to give Kimbrel a six-year deal at the top market rate for relievers.
Kimbrel is still a fantastic closer, but he’s no spring chicken any longer. The baby face assassin Braves’ fans remember has been replaced by a lengthy and quite impressive red beard. His numbers have also followed a similar trend.
Prior to leaving the Braves, an ERA over 2.00 for Kimbrel was like seeing the seventh wonder of the world. In fact, it only happened one time in 2013, his rookie season. Keep in mind, Kimbrel still won the Rookie of the Year award that year and finished with an ERA of 2.10. He followed that up with three consecutive years of 40+ saves and a peak ERA of 1.61. That’s the kind of back end reliever worth six years for around $100 mil.
But that’s not the Craig Kimbrel that exists anymore. In the four years since leaving Atlanta, he’s only had one year with an ERA below two (2017) and has had a total ERA near 2.50. That’s not egregious by any means, but it’s obvious regression, and it’s unclear how much longer he will be able to pitch at such a high level given his age. He will be 31 early next year, and by the time his contract is over he will be 37. That likely would be a painful check to write come 2024 and 2025.
For the most part, he’s a two-pitch guy, fastball and slider. If either one of those pitches becomes less effective in age, he will no longer be the dominant force he once was. We saw what happened in the second half of the season and into the postseason when he really lost command of his slider. He became fastball reliant and that doesn’t cut it in the MLB, no matter how hard you can throw.
Alex Anthopoulos actually gave warning to the Braves faithful reminding them not to get their hopes too high for a Kimbrel return because of his price tag.
Alex Anthopoulos spoke of how Craig Kimbrel (a free agent) is rightly beloved in Atlanta, but he also cautioned that the #Braves may not have the budget to invest in a high-end closer. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 28, 2018
The Braves are going to make corrections to their bullpen, but they still have other, more important holes, to fill at this juncture. The likelihood of them landing Kimbrel just went from slim to none.