Seven-time All-Star, 346 saves, and 898 strikeouts does not seem to grow on trees anymore for MLB teams around the league. With the Chicago Cubs being lucky enough to have that one tree in their orchard in Craig Kimbrel, their back of bullpen worries should all be alleviated, even with how he performed in 2019.
The 31-year-old door shutter for the Cubbies was a mid-season signing after the coldest offseason in recent memory for free agents hit and hit hard. With both Kimbrel and starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel left out on the market until the middle of June, both players had a very small window of time to prove their worth.
For Kimbrel, he secured a three year, $43 million deal from the Cubs, while Keuchel only signed a one-year agreement with the Atlanta Braves and is back on the market, looking to once again cash in on his talents for a long-term, big-money deal. That short timeframe seemed to kick Kimbrel down more than it did for Keuchel, however, as Kimbrel’s year out of the bullpen seemed to be much less than productive.
13 saves, 30 punchouts, and a 6.53 ERA are all disgusting numbers for the proven veteran closer, who has suited up for the San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and now for the Cubs. On numerous occasions, Kimbrel’s actions in a game cost them the lead or tie that they were in before he came into the game, making it hard for former manager Joe Maddon to trust him.
But, lucky for the Cubs, the idea that signing Kimbrel for that much money and that he is a waste of a roster spot is completely heinous to think at this moment, especially only being less than one full season into his contract.
Before coming to the South Side, Craig Kimbrel was a light-out closer for the Red Sox, producing in the biggest of situations for a team that had lacked a closer ever since Jonathan Papelbon decided to forget how to pitch the ball in an effective manner. For Kimbrel, his performance underneath the lights at Fenway Park and across the American League helped make a name for himself, while also providing key matchups against him that he commonly came out ahead in.
The Cubs have been plagued by their own bullpen woes for a while now, and while outside of Kimbrel they are still looking for that guy to become the team’s setup man or the squad’s key out getter, Kimbrel has all of the stuff that they and any other team looks for in a closer.
Moxy, stuff, and confidence are three of the main factors that help make a closer successful, and while it seemed as though Kimbrel forgot about all three at certain moments last season, he has not totally lost though. Starting to pitch for a team that competes on a yearly basis, in a big market with unforgiving media and fans, while also trying to leverage his past pitching experience, has had to have been tough on Kimbrel, which may have spoken to why he struggled as much as he did last year.
But fear not Cubs fans, the wait to finally see the effective version of Kimbrel released is upon us, and while he should have moments where he blows up at times (which every closer has, mind you), he will ultimately show you why this team decided to take a leap of faith and sign him mid-season – your bullpen woes, while not even close to being officially solved, can at least be a bit improved by the true Craig Kimbrel coming out to pitch in 2020.