Phillies rumors: Should team re-engage with Craig Kimbrel?
Craig Kimbrel, despite his talents, remains unsigned even with the regular season underway. Should the Phillies re-engage with the star closer?
The Phillies suffered their first loss of the young 2019 season Wednesday, a heartbreaking walk-off loss to the Nationals. The loss highlighted the early struggles of free-agent acquisition David Robertson and the bullpen as a whole so far this year.
These struggles are concerning considering that the bullpen was supposed to be a key strength for this team. They have led to talk of the team reaching out to current free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel.
An overwhelming majority of fans who responded to our Twitter poll said that Robertson’s early struggles warrant taking another run at Kimbrel:
Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel‘s continued free agency has become a significant storyline around the league’s free agency process. The two were reportedly looking for long-term deals during the offseason; it remains unclear if their demands have wavered since then.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported when Bryce Harper was signed that Philadelphia would be interested in the two free agent pitchers on a “pretty short term” contract. He didn’t specify the number of years, but between one and three are a safe bet.
There hasn’t been much chatter regarding Kimbrel since spring training began. The last we heard, the Braves and Brewers were the two teams in the running for Kimbrel’s services according to David O’Brien of the Athletic. Both clubs are also wary of giving Kimbrel the long-term deal he is pursuing.
MLB Trade Rumors predicted when the offseason began that Kimbrel would receive a four-year, $70 million contract. The odds of him getting that contract at this point are pretty slim, especially if he continues to sit out. There is already a belief that without spring training, the two pitchers may not be ready to play until May.
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Despite being an All-Star last year, Kimbrel a relatively down year for him. His 2.74 ERA, 0.995 WHIP, 4.5 walks per nine innings, and 3.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio were second-worst, fifth-worst, third-worst, and third-worst of his nine-year career, respectively. He especially struggled in the playoffs, giving up seven runs in 10.2 innings, a 6.18 ERA.
According to Spotrac, the Phillies have about $17.3 million they can spend before crossing the luxury tax threshold. Kimbrel’s predicted yearly salary of $17.5 million from MLB Trade Rumors would barely push them over the line. Any additional moves the club could make at the trade deadline could push them well above the luxury tax depending on the player.
If Philadelphia can find a nice middle ground with Kimbrel on a deal, say for three years, the move may be worth it to hopefully steady the bullpen. However, they shouldn’t use a couple of bad performances to justify completely giving in to Kimbrel’s demands.