Nationals Rumors: Craig Kimbrel is a possibility to upgrade the bullpen

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BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his teams 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park on October 24, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his teams 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park on October 24, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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As the Washington Nationals look to round out their roster, Craig Kimbrel could be an option to upgrade the bullpen according to recent Nationals rumors.

Although the Washington Nationals could argue that their bullpen might be set heading into 2019, the front office may have feelers out for another reliever. The latest Nationals rumors have them connected to closer Craig Kimbrel as a possible bullpen upgrade.

Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported that Kimbrel is a possibility for the Nationals. The other teams that Heyman mentioned were the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, and an elusive mystery team.

Heyman’s report does sound a little like educated speculation, but Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has also connected the Nats and Kimbrel before. However, it doesn’t really seem like all that good of a fit for the Nats, even though they still do need a small upgrade in the bullpen.

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Kimbrel is coming off a season in which he continued to dominate with a 2.74 ERA and converted 42 saves in 47 opportunities. However, he looked uneasy in the postseason with a 5.91 ERA, despite converting all six of his save opportunities. That type of performance may have scared off some suitors who fear regression.

There’s no doubt that for the early portion of his new contract that the seven-time All-Star would still be among baseball’s best closers. But early reports this offseason has the right-hander seeking a six-year deal worth north of $100 million which would’ve been a big gamble for any team looking into acquiring him.

Given the natural volatility of relievers in general, combined with the shaky postseason, it’s easy to see why Kimbrel hasn’t quite had the interest he had hoped for entering the offseason. But even with potentially reduced demands, it’s not a wise idea for the Nats to jump into the bidding.

The two best relievers to come off the board this offseason have all gotten solid deals, and no doubt Kimbrel would be looking to exceed all of them as the most accomplished of all of them. Zach Britton received $13 million per season from the New York Yankees, Andrew Miller got $12.5 million AAV from the St. Louis Cardinals, which means Kimbrel will likely hope for $15 million.

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Nats have roughly $11 million worth of breathing room under the luxury tax threshold this offseason. However, the team needs that breathing room, as this figure only includes an estimate on the player benefits and incentives, which could easily rise, as well leaving room for any midseason trade acquisitions.

Unlike the Bryce Harper situation, which is a fairly unique situation, it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to go over for a reliever, no matter how good he is. Therefore, the fit Kimbrel in at around $15 million annual average, the team would likely need to shift about $8-10 million worth of salary to make staying under the tax threshold viable.

While it’s possible they could bring Kimbrel in and shift some salary, it seems futile when it’s only a marginal upgrade on current closer Sean Doolittle. They would need to swing multiple trades to make it work, and likely weaken a couple of other areas to make it work, which doesn’t seem worth it.

Next. Looking ahead at the Nats' 2019/20 FAs. dark

It’s certainly interesting to see the Washington Nationals thrown out there as a team that may be interested in Craig Kimbrel. However, due to several factors, it doesn’t appear overly likely to be more than due diligence if they have indeed made contact.

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