During the 2022-23 offseason, the Phillies signed Craig Kimbrel to a one-year, $10 million contract, as they were willing to take on a low-cost gamble that Kimbrel can revert to form to help the team for 2023. Already armed with hard-throwing relievers in José Alvarado and Seranthony Domínguez, by adding flamethrower Kimbrel to the mix, the Phillies have formed a scary threesome for the back end of their bullpen that could be lights-out for any opposing hitters from the seventh inning onwards.
Last season, Kimbrel had a sub-par season compared to his usual standards, pitching to a 6-7 record and 22 saves with a 3.75 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, with a career-low strikeout rate of 10.8 per nine innings. The Phillies were banking on Kimbrel being able to regain some of his prior form, which encompassed a sub-2.5 ERA, sub-1.0 WHIP, and a strikeout rate closer to his career average of 14.4 per nine innings. Well, so far for 2023, the results have been mixed, but luckily it has been generally more positive than negative. Despite a shaky start to the season, he is 5-1 and a perfect 13-for-13 in save opportunities with a 3.60 ERA, 121 ERA+, 1.00 WHIP, with a strikeout rate of 14.4 per nine innings.
So he may seem to be giving up a lot more runs that one would be comfortable with, but he has mainly been getting the job done whenever called upon, with the key being five wins and no blown saves throughout the season when the games matter most. More importantly, he has been dominant in the Phillies’ recent hot streak, as since June 1st, he is 2-0 with six saves, along with a miniscule 0.60 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, giving up only one earned run, six hits, three walks and 24 strikeouts over 15 innings pitched. In doing so, Kimbrel has now become the ideal closer that the Phillies envisioned him to be when they first signed him this year. It would be wise if the Phillies can hold onto him; however, at age 35, Kimbrel may be looking for that one last big multi-year contract leading up to his eventual retirement, so the Phillies will really need to think it over carefully to see if he does fit in their plans in the long run and if the price is right.