Phillies trade rumors: Club could lose Kimbrel to this dominant team
The Philadelphia Phillies have a lot of competition for Craig Kimbrel, but one team in the mix doesn’t even make sense.
More than that, it wouldn’t be fair.
Dave Dombrowski, named Phillies President of Baseball Operations during the offseason, traded for Kimbrel once before. It was his first blockbuster trade when he took over the Boston Red Sox in 2015.
Now, there are numerous reports that the Red Sox are once again interested in their former closer.
The Red Sox taking Craig Kimbrel instead of the Phillies doesn’t make sense.
Sure, Kimbrel was largely dominant for Boston during his time there. They won three consecutive division titles and a World Series while he owned ninth innings.
But the Red Sox don’t really need him anymore.
Could they use him? Sure. Do they need him? No.
The AL East team has been in first place for the majority of the season. They’re 63-40, one of only two American League teams with a winning percentage over .600.
This isn’t to say that their bullpen couldn’t use an upgrade, but not at the closer role. Matt Barnes has a 2.30 ERA over 43 games this season. He’s finished 35 games, has 23 saves, and won AL Reliever of the Month in April.
Financially, the move wouldn’t make sense, either. Letting Kimbrel walk after 2018 was partially due to his struggles that season, but largely because he wanted an astronomical deal, and Dombrowski wasn’t going to even try to meet it. The Sox are under the much more fiscally-responsible leadership of Chaim Bloom now, and Kimbrel still comes with a hefty price tag.
The Sox also recently gave Barnes a lucrative extension. He is now under contract through the 2023 season with a club option for 2024.
Barnes says he’d accept a move back to the set-up man role he occupied for much of his earlier career when his friend and mentor Kimbrel was with the club but would prefer to stay in the closer role he’s earned over the last couple seasons:
"“Selfishly, would I love to still be the closer? Absolutely. But if I go back to throwing the eighth because the guy throwing the ninth is Craig Kimbrel, I’m totally fine with it. I would welcome him with open arms.”"
Kimbrel would be an upgrade for almost any team’s bullpen, but there are teams who desperately need him, and teams that could use him. The Phillies obviously fall into the former category. They’ve led all of MLB in blown saves (23) for a significant portion of the season, only recently joined at the top by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are also in the mix for Kimbrel.
The Red Sox only have 15 blown saves, tied for seventh in MLB with the A’s, Mets, Braves, Twins, and Orioles. Despite being tied with these teams, they have vastly better records than all of them, due in large part to their absurd number of come-from-behind victories, which makes up more than half their wins.
It’s also worth noting that Kimbrel’s postseason performances with the Red Sox were not exactly dominant. 13 games is a small sample size, but those games were spread out over the 2016 ALDS, 2017 ALDS, and every round of the 2018 postseason. He had a 5.14 ERA over his 13 postseason appearances for the Red Sox. Alex Cora was so concerned about the Red Sox bullpen – Kimbrel included – that he used his starting rotation for over thirteen innings of relief work in the 2018 postseason, and he had Chris Sale close out the clinching game of the World Series.
Barnes, meanwhile, has a 0.87 ERA over 11 postseason appearances between 2016-2018. Of course, none of those 10 1/3 innings were in the closer role. That job belonged to Kimbrel, and he was not exactly effective.
Can the Phillies land Kimbrel?
After the Tyler Anderson debacle earlier this week, the Phillies need to make a splash, or fans might actually riot.
But is Kimbrel a realistic get for this team? It doesn’t feel that way anymore. Dombrowski said recently that the Phillies are considering exceeding the luxury tax threshold for the first time in franchise history, but that doesn’t mean the Cubs are going to give them Kimbrel. There are other teams who can offer a lot more, like the Dodgers.
The Phillies have also been named as frontrunners to land Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez, but after the Anderson trade fell through on Tuesday, that may not materialize, either. Dombrowski and Pirates GM Ben Cherington worked together in Boston, and there may be some bad blood there. There’s certainly no love lost after Cherington gave Anderson to the Mariners.
Kimbrel, Rodriguez, someone else… With the trade deadline roughly 30 hours away, the Phillies need to do something.