Phillies fans will have to wait to 'welcome' former closer back to Citizens Bank Park

Craig Kimbrel won't return to Philadelphia with his new team, the Orioles, during the 2024 regular season.

Philadelphia Phillies fans will be eager to welcome former closer Craig Kimbrel back to Citizens Bank Park
Philadelphia Phillies fans will be eager to welcome former closer Craig Kimbrel back to Citizens Bank Park / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

With the Philadelphia Phillies less than a week from opening the season at home versus the rival Atlanta Braves on March 28, attention is starting to shift from reading spring training box scores to speculation of who will be the Opening Day closer when the Phillies take the field for the first game of the 2024 season.

The Phillies' offseason was marked by the excruciatingly slow-to-develop free agent market, and while the team made a notable addition at the beginning of spring training when Whit Merrifield agreed to a one-year, $7 million deal with a 2025 club option, this past Hot Stove season is also notable for two players who won't be back with the Phillies in 2024. We're talking about Rhys Hoskins and Craig Kimbrel.

The loss of Hoskins tugged at the heartstrings of Phillies fans. The homegrown slugger was shown the door when the team announced that Bryce Harper would become the everyday first baseman going forward, and Hoskins was forced to test the waters of free agency. Ultimately signing with the Milwaukee Brewers on a two-year, $34 million deal, Hoskins will return to a hero's welcome when the Phillies take on the Brewers for a three-game series June 3-6 at Citizens Bank Park.

While the subtraction of Hoskins still hurts for some Phillies fans, the departure of former closer and playoff scapegoat Craig Kimbrel was not met with the same level of sadness. After costing the Phillies the opportunity to appear in their second straight World Series after a number of shambolic meltdowns in relief against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS last October, Kimbrel was allowed to walk in free agency. He signed a one-year, $13 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles in December.

For Phillies fans, Kimbrel's loss was considered a positive, as it would be hard to imagine the washed-up closer ever recovering their respect due to his erratic performance last October. Let's call this move what it is: addition by subtraction.

When will the Phillies face Craig Kimbrel in 2024?

There's good news and bad news for Phillies fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Craig Kimbrel this season. The good news is that the Phillies will face the Orioles for a series in June. The bad news is the Phillies will be on the road for the June 14-16 series at Camden Yards. Booing Craig Kimbrel at CBP will have to wait until 2025 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the Phillies appear to be going into the 2024 season with a closer-by-committee situation, as the team failed to make a deal with a free agent closer this offseason. The Phillies could be looking at shared ninth-inning duties with trusted bullpen arms like José Alvarado, Gregory Soto, and Orion Kerkering all possibly in the mix for save opportunities. While not exactly what most Phillies fans had hoped for, it will be interesting to see if this type of arrangement will work for a ball club hoping to make the postseason for the third consecutive year.