After a lull period, the Washington Nationals are once again linked to free agent relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel. Should the Nationals invest in him?
If the Nats do splurge for Kimbrel, it would require the team to go over the luxury tax, something they would prefer not to do according to a report by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman this winter.
The seven-time all-star recorded 42 saves last season for Boston, the most in his career since 2014, when he was with the Atlanta Braves.
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However, some may exercise caution when discussing Kimbrel, as his postseason stats were not pretty.
In the 2018 postseason, Kimbrel allowed seven earned runs in 10 and two-thirds innings, while also surrendering eight walks compared to ten strikeouts.
“THE BAT” projection system on Fangraphs.com gives Kimbrel slight improvements over his marks last season. It projects a 2.72 ERA along with a 13.27 K/9 and a significantly decreased walk rate.
If the Nats do sign Kimbrel, manager Davey Martinez will need to decide how to manage a bullpen with two bonafide closers.
However, this situation would be unique as Kimbrel and Sean Doolittle have opposite handedness. This could allow Martinez to play the platoon game and bring Kimbrel in to face a heavy right-handed lineup, and send Doolittle out to handle a predominately left-handed lineup.
Regardless of what solution Martinez comes up with, having too many good relief pitchers is a great problem to have on a baseball team in 2019.
Even without Kimbrel, the Nationals bullpen situation is much improved compared to last season.
With a healthy Doolittle, the additions of Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough, and the emergence of Wander Suero as a multi-inning pitcher, the Nationals are already in a great position to start the season.
Adding Kimbrel would add an entirely new dimension to the Nationals bullpen. Whether he is worth the hefty price tag is the multi-million dollar question.