Washington Nationals: Steer well clear of Craig Kimbrel this winter

bfinney
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27: Closing pitcher Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the ninth inning in Game Four of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27: Closing pitcher Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the ninth inning in Game Four of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Despite two early additions to the bullpen, the Washington Nationals could look for more relievers. However, they should stay away from Craig Kimbrel.

We’re now just over a month away from Spring Training and the Washington Nationals report to camp. While the bullpen needs a little work before then, they would be wise to avoid right-hander Craig Kimbrel in their pursuit.

Earlier in the offseason, the Nationals acquired both Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough to bolster the back-end of the bullpen. But there are still question marks littered throughout the bullpen that make another addition to the relief corps a wise idea.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal suggested that Kimbrel would be a good fit for one of the four NL East teams seemingly in an arms race to win the division in 2019. Yes, that includes the Nationals in which he says “[the Nationals] bullpen would look even better if they had Kimbrel anchoring a group that also includes righties Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal.

More from District on Deck

While Rosenthal is right in that Kimbrel would make the Nats bullpen better, that doesn’t make it anywhere near worth the cost that it would take to get him. It would be like saying that the Nationals would get better by acquiring Manny Machado, which is true, but they have neither the funds nor the need to acquire him, so should stay away.

Make no mistake though, Kimbrel is probably the best closer the game has seen ever since Mariano Rivera retired. In his nine big league seasons, he’s converted 333 saves in 367 chances to the tune of a 1.91 ERA while holding an elite 14.7 K/9.

However, Kimbrel has slowed down a fair amount ever since his trade to the Boston Red Sox. In his last three seasons, he’s posted a 2.44 ERA and converted 108 of 199 save opportunities. Still elite, but there have definitely been signs of regression.

His hard contact rate jumped up from 24.6 percent in his first five seasons to 32.9 percent over the last three. This while his groundball percentage cratered from 44.8 percent all the way down to 31.5 percent in the same timespan, all meaning that hitters are gradually catching up to him and the only way to go is down.

With that in mind, when Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported that the reliever was seeking a six-year, $100 million deal, it raised several eyebrows. The signs of decline combined with the volatility of relievers make a deal like that completely unviable for anyone, no matter how good the closer. Not even close.

Since then, reports have emerged from Evan Drellich at NBCS Boston that the market for Kimbrel is “crazy low.” So perhaps those demands have come down a bit, but that doesn’t mean it makes any more sense for the Nationals to invest.

Kimbrel appears likely to command something along the lines of a $15-$18 million annual average over the next four to five seasons. For that $15 million, the Nats could likely pick up a short-term upgrade at second base as well as a lesser bullpen upgrade. For example, the Nats could likely go grab Brian Dozier and Greg Holland for 2019 for the cost of Kimbrel.

That would be a much better fit with the Nats’ plans than going after the top relief pitcher on the market as a luxury. That could also mean they free up those funds for next offseason when Anthony Rendon will be due for an extension too and could cover the increase in salary from his last year of arbitration to his new contract annual average.

Next. Six Nats who could breakout in 2019. dark

There’s no doubt that Craig Kimbrel is and will be among the best in the game over the next few seasons. However, signing him just makes no sense for the Washington Nationals at the price tag that it’s likely to cost to bring him to the nation’s capital.

facebooktwitterreddit