Chicago Cubs: A Craig Kimbrel trade remains a long-shot, at best

Craik Kimbrel / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Craik Kimbrel / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

In this unpredictable offseason, where almost any move is on the table for the Chicago Cubs, is there any chance the team would try to move Craig Kimbrel?

We’re hearing all sorts of trade rumors already this offseason involving the Chicago Cubs. From the sounds of it, just about every player could be available if the situation is right. Does that mean that closer Craig Kimbrel could be available?

It sounds crazy, but it’s not entirely without merit. Jordan Bastian of recently brought up the possibility that Kimbrel could be a sleeper trade candidate. The 31-year-old right-hander signed a three-year contract with the Cubs in the middle of the 2019 campaign after he failed to sign with a team during the offseason.

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His first year with the Cubs was a disaster, as he gave up 15 runs – including a whopping nine home runs – in just 20 2/3 innings pitched while also battling injury. It’s a long shot that the Cubs would either want to move him or would be able to move him, but it may still be worth bringing up.

One thing we would have to establish right away about any potential deal involving Kimbrel is that it would be a salary dump and nothing more. The nine-year veteran is owed $16 million each of the next two seasons, an exorbitant amount for any relief pitcher. Given the team’s current financial situation, it would be nice to have that money available elsewhere. For example, the Cubs could probably sign two above-average relievers with that money, or it could help them to re-sign fan favorite Nicholas Castellanos.

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The Cubs also have little leverage when it comes to Kimbrel. There’s no team out there that would be willing to give up significant talent in order to take on that contract. Throw in the fact that Kimbrel is coming off by far the worst season of his professional career and the Cubs should not really expect anything in return.

If any contending team is looking for a closer for 2020 and would be interested in Kimbrel, they would be banking on a return to previous form, hoping that his struggles in 2019 were due to injuries and to not being prepared after coming in during the middle of the season.

Between 2011 and 2018 with the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox, Kimbrel earned over 30 saves every year, leading the league four times, while posting an ERA under 2.00 four times and under 3.00 seven times. He could be a Hall of Fame candidate with at least a couple more elite years.

But even if the Cubs could move Kimbrel, would they want to? I wrote previously that putting together a bullpen for 2020 will be a challenge, as Pedro Strop, Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek and David Phelps are all free agents.

Assuming Kimbrel stays with the Cubs, the team will need him to be healthy and effective in order to be a serious contender next year. There are already plenty of question marks about the bullpen bridge to get to Kimbrel; the last thing the Cubs need right now is to worry about who would pitch in the ninth.

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Again, I understand that the team unloading Craig Kimbrel this offseason is unlikely. And losing him would create yet another hole on the roster when there are already several to fill. Yet if there’s any team out there desperate for a closer who would be willing to take on Kimbrel’s salary, Chicago should be willing to at least listen. Otherwise, we all have to hope that he can return to All-Star form next year.