Phillies to sign Craig Kimbrel

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The Phillies are adding an established shutout. They are supposedly in line with Craig Kimbrel on a one-year, $10 million contract. Kimbrel is a SportsMeter customer.

Philadelphia will be the seventh MLB team for Kimbrel, who is entering his 14th season. He returns to the NL East, where he was arguably the best player in the sport in 2011-14 as a member of the Braves. Kimbrel remained outstanding after being traded to the Padres and later Red Sox. Dave Dombrowski was running baseball operations in Boston, while Kimbrel was there for three consecutive All-Star seasons between 2016-18. They are now reunited with Dombrowski leading the charge in Philadelphia.

Since leaving the Red Sox, Kimbrel has had his share of ups and downs. He remained in free agency until June 2019 before securing a three-year commitment with the Cubs. That deal looked like a misfire after he posted a 6.00 ERA in 41 appearances through the end of the 2020 campaign. However, he looked good as usual at the start of the third season. The right-hander posted a microscopic 0.57 ERA in 31 2/3 innings in the first half of 2021, securing his eighth All-Star selection in the process. The Cubs transferred him to the White Sox across town in a term deal that brought him back. Nick Madrigal🇧🇷

Kimbrel didn’t finish the season very well, posting a 5.09 ERA for the Sox. Chicago exercised a $16 million option on his services for the 2022 season, but bought him out for most of last winter. In the days leading up to Opening Day, they sent him to the Dodgers in a one-for-one trade for AJ Pollock🇧🇷 Kimbrel spent his 34-year campaign in Los Angeles posting solid numbers overall but showing some worrying signs down the stretch.

While his first-half ERA was a pedestrian 4.35, he shut out more than a third of opponents in that time. The Dodgers relied on him as their main forward at the start of the year, but he began to fall out of favor as the season wore on. Kimbrel’s strikeout rate in the second half was a modest 20.7%. His ERA registered 3.10 thanks to a . 227 batting average on balls in play against him. The Dodgers were clearly skeptical of Kimbrel’s ability to maintain that kind of fortune on the batted ball. They removed him from the ninth inning in September and scratched him entirely by playoff time.

This is certainly not how Kimbrel or the team envisioned the season ending, but their 2022 campaign has hardly been a disaster. He posted a 3.75 ERA in 60 innings overall. His 27.7% slugging rate and 12.1% slugging percentage were both slightly better than par, and he averaged a quality 95.8 MPH on his fastball. He walked the batters at a high clip of 10.8% and gave up hard contact, but still showed quality short-bat material. While not vintage Kimbrel or even at the level of his 2021 production, he has shown enough to believe he is still capable of playing solidly.

Kimbrel has made 22 of 27 save attempts this year. He now has 394 career saves, the most of any active player. Kimbrel should soon become the seventh pitcher in MLB history to reach the 400 save mark, and he’ll have a way back in Philadelphia’s ninth-inning job. players like Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez previously they were inside favorites to close out the job, although each is capable of taking on higher leverage responsibilities in the seventh or eighth inning.

It’s a relatively low cost bet for the Phils, matching the $10MM flyer they took on Corey Knebel last offseason. They will have to pay an extra few million in taxes as they will likely exceed the luxury tax cap for the second consecutive season. Philadelphia’s luxury tax commitments amount to approximately $251 million, as calculated by Roster Resource. They’re subject to a 30% tax on every dollar spent between $233 million and $253 million, so Kimbrel’s subscription comes with an extra $3 million in fees. That also brings them within a few million dollars of CBT’s second cap at $253 million. That would come with a 42% tax on surpluses, with higher penalties if they exceed $273 million.

Precisely where owner John Middleton wants to draw the line is unclear, though the Phils have little reason to spare big expenses after a pennant victory. Philadelphia already brought Trea Turner and Taijuan Walker this winter, and Kimbrel joins Matt Strahm as relief additions. The Phils are ready for another battle with the Mets and Braves in a heavyweight NL East, and they’re hoping Kimbrel has plenty of opportunities to secure late bullpen wins.

Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported that Kimbrel and the Phillies had agreed to a contract. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report the one-year $10MM warranty.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.