Should the Braves bring back Craig Kimbrel? It is a popular topic of conversation and for good reason, Atlanta has deep pockets, transitioning back into win-now mode and Kimbrel will be hitting the free agent market this winter. Not to mention, the Braves had major inconsistencies in their bullpen last year. Having a guy like Kimbrel might immediately blanket some of those issues; however, the price is always going to be a concern with a free agent of the caliber of Kimbrel.
Let’s start with the obvious: Craig Kimbrel is on pace to be on of the greatest closers of all-time and would be an anchorman at the back end of the bullpen. He had a career 1.43 ERA in his five seasons with the Braves. His venture to the American League has come with its bumps but he posted a 5-0 record with 35 saves and a 1.43 ERA in 2017, and of course, closed the door for the World Series champion Red Sox this year. Contrary to popular belief, the Braves do have do have some high-quality arms returning to the pen, but nobody that looks to be ready for the closer’s role.
The problem is, still just 30 years of age, Kimbrel is going to be at the top of everybody’s wish list when it comes to bullpen help. There isn’t a bullpen in the majors that wouldn’t benefit from adding the 7-time All-Star. This man has finished top-10 in the Cy Young voting 5 times in 8 seasons for God’s sake. And frankly, Braves GM, Alex Anthopoulos has made it clear Atlanta isn’t in the market for high-priced free agent bullpen help.
So what kind of contract might it take to land Kimbrel? We have something to compare it to since Aroldis Chapman signed a five-year, $86 million dollar contract with the Yankees in the winter of 2016. And let’s be honest, Kimbrel has been a much better pitcher than Chapman over his career. Kimbrel realistically has a chance of earning the first $100 million contract ever for a reliever.
That’s the kind of money we are talking about.
I would love to bring in Kimbrel as much as the next guy, but the odds are slim to none of that happening. We saw how Anthopoulos would like to address the bullpen issues at the trade deadline a few months ago when he brought in Brad Brach and Jonny Venters for virtually nothing. The Braves have money to spend, and they will address the holes in their bullpen, but they are not going to drop $100 million on a closer coming off one of his worst years as a pro. This isn’t New York, they don’t have that much money to spend.