Former controversial Cubs closer just did something no other MLB player has ever done

Craig Kimbrel evoked a lot of strong emotions during his time in Chicago, but his MLB legacy is cemented with his latest accomplishment.
Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles
Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

To say Craig Kimbrel's time as a member of the Chicago Cubs didn't go exactly as planned is the understatement of a lifetime. In the summer of 2019, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer waited out the market until the right-hander was no longer tied to draft pick compensation, swooping in and landing one of the game's most dominant relievers on a three-year, $45 million deal in early June.

The wheels fell off almost immediately and, instead of being the late-inning answer that the 2019 Cubs team desperately needed, he was its biggest liability. Kimbrel worked to a 6.53 ERA and 8.00 FIP in 23 appearances, drawing the fire of a fanbase that felt its window was closing far sooner than anticipated.

Thanks to a COVID-shortened 2020 season, we only had to suffer through 18 Kimbrel appearances the following year and, while some metrics suggested improvement, he was far from the dominant force he once was. Few had any hope for a rebound, but that's exactly what he delivered in 2021, earning the eighth All-Star appearance of his career, which allowed Hoyer to trade him to the White Sox in exchange for Codi Heuer and Nick Madrigal.

Craig Kimbrel continues to pile up strikeouts as Orioles fly high

Since then, Kimbrel has spent time with the Dodgers, Phillies, and, most recently, the Orioles - with whom he made history this week, becoming the first MLB player ever to strike out 1,200 batters without ever starting a game.

Kimbrel, the Orioles' backup plan in the ninth inning as injured All-Star closer Félix Bautista recovers from Tommy John surgery, has been dominant for Baltimore, with a minuscule 0.03 FIP and 14.4 K/9 in five early season appearances. Looking to build off an All-Star campaign of his own in 2023, the 35-year-old continues to show he's got something left in the tank years after Cubs fans had written him off.

In an ideal world, Chicago would have gotten this version of Kimbrel back in 2019, before Hoyer was forced to slam the door on the 2016 World Series-winning core and send them packing at the 2021 trade deadline. But, regardless, it's nice to see him able to re-invent himself and keep doing his thing, even in the latter years of his career.