Craig Kimbrel

Chicago Cubs and Kimbrel are an ideal pairing even on multi-year deal

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Craig Kimbrel has signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs, as first reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Jeff Passan added that Kimbrel will receive $43 million over the course of his three-year contract, including $10 million this season. There is a $1 million buyout on a club/vesting option for the 2022 season. He will receive $16 million in 2022 if the option is picked up.

The Cubs were not in the running for marquee free agents during the offseason because of spending constraints. As their bullpen faltered through spring and into the early summer months, though, the 2016 World Series winners became involved with Kimbrel. After losing the draft pick attached to his signing on Monday, there was a sense that a deal was nearing.

While others were not keen to go to three or four years, the Cubs went all-in.

Chicago’s save percentage is one of the worst in baseball (52%). Only the New York Mets (who have had plenty of their own bullpen woes) have blown more saves.


The need was obvious, alarmingly so.

Brandon Morrow’s future is unknown. Xavier Cedeno is on the injured list with a wrist issue. Tony Barnette has not pitched in the Majors in 2019.

Brad Brach, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Ryan have struggled, all owning ERAs over five.

Kimbrel does not solve all these issues – he’s only going to pitch one inning – but it is a step in the right direction. Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler will be the setup men, giving Joe Maddon three reliable arms at the back end of games.

The rotation has been very good, averaging 5.7 innings per start, bettered only by the Nationals and Dodgers. The formula is clear: Get six or more from the starter, then hand the ball to Cishek, Kintzler and Kimbrel.


Kimbrel’s slow-moving free agency was down to his demands, but also the suggestion that he is declining. He’s unlikely to be as dominant by the end of this deal, making it a risk in a sense. Handing contracts of this value and length to relievers is a short-term, win-right-now move.

It’s absolutely the correct thing for the Cubs to do. Their roster is built to succeed in 2019 with a veteran rotation and talented offence. Kimbrel will turn leads into victories, something the Cubs have struggled with so far this season.

No team made as much sense for Kimbrel as the Cubs. He gets the deal he wanted, the Cubs stay under the luxury tax and address their shaky relief corps.

This is about right now; winning games in July, August, September and potentially October. Possible decline and future money are not the issue for the Cubs that they would be for other teams, this should improve their greatest weakness, which could make all the difference in a tightly fought division.

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