In recent days, we heard Cubs rumors connecting the team to free agent closer Craig Kimbrel. After months of hoping and wishing, fans’ dreams have come true.
IT HAPPENED. IT FINALLY HAPPENED. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Chicago Cubs have agreed to terms on a three-year deal worth close to $45 million l with free agent closer Craig Kimbrel.
Addressing a glaring hole at the back end of the bullpen, Chicago immediately takes a huge step forward in the tight race for the National League Central. The Cubs have been without closer Brandon Morrow since the midpoint of last season and have gotten very limited contributions from Pedro Strop this year.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
- Cubs: P.J. Higgins deserves to be in the lineup on a daily basis
To this point, they’ve kept their heads above water, despite blowing 11 of 23 saves – working to the second-worst save percentage in the National League through the season’s first two months. But in adding Kimbrel, arguably the best active closer in today’s game, everything changes.
Despite drawing some criticism last season, especially in the postseason, Kimbrel provides an immediate upgrade for the Cubs.
In 2018, the right-hander pitched to a 2.74 ERA, notching 42 saves in 63 appearances. His FIP skyrocketed up to 3.13 – a far cry from his career mark of 1.96.
He struggled to keep the ball in the yard, as well, allowing one home run per nine – also walking more batters than we’ve been accustomed to seeing. Still, he played a critical role in helping the Boston Red Sox win their fourth title since 2004. Now, the Cubs hope he can do the same on the North Side of Chicago.
This is one of those moves I have to assume is only possible because of Ben Zobrist. The veteran utilityman seems unlikely to return to the team in the wake of his personal matters that have kept him sidelined most of the year. By having Zobrist on the restricted list, the Cubs are saving a hefty chunk of his $12.5 million 2019 salary – which likely allowed Theo Epstein to pursue Kimbrel.
We all remember 2016. Now, adding Kimbrel by no means guarantees Chicago will return to the Fall Classic, but that team had a very similar need in the ninth inning. Epstein went out, acquired Aroldis Chapman and the rest, as they say, is history.
Will history repeat itself in 2019? Time will tell. But for now, Theo got his man – again.