Craig Kimbrel is arguably the greatest closer to ever play baseball, he’s currently sitting at 14th on the all time saves list, and he’s a free agent because none of the clubs want to pay him what he’s worth.
Back in December, Jayson Stark reported that Kimbrel and his agent were looking for a record setting deal of six-years and $100 million ($16.6 million a year).
Now I understand being hesitant about handing a six-year deal to a 30-year old closer — especially with how volatile bullpens are — but it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t a deal to be struck at a similar annual rate for a shorter length of time. Kimbrel would make an ideal addition to any bullpen that needs more depth, especially since he’s such a capable strikeout artist (38.9% of batters faced last season).
The fact that no club seems to want to meet him at anything resembling the contract he desires is ridiculous considering he’s been a consistently better reliever than the current record holder Aroldis Chapman — five-years and $86 million, $17.2 million per year. It’s hard to argue that Chapman has not been worth the money the Yankees have paid him during the first three years of his extension; which means that Kimbrel should (at least) be getting a similar amount per season.
If you don’t believe me, let’s compare how the two have performed since the Yankees inked their closer to his contract extension in 2016.
Since Chapman’s contract extension, both pitchers have been worth around six wins and both have been dominated hitters while rarely walking them. Both have been dominant closers that have been helped their clubs win a lot of games throughout the last three seasons.
Because Chapman’s performance has been worth his annual cost, and Kimbrel’s performance has been comparable to the Yankees’ closer, then it makes sense that the 30-year old free agent wants a similar annual payout (and length) contract. Unfortunately for him, he’s also hitting free agency at 30…while Chapman hit it at 28. Any contending club should jump at getting a relief pitcher of Kimbrel’s caliber at $16.6 million per year; but the length is rightfully concerning.
If Kimbrel has been unwilling to negotiate on the length of the deal, it makes sense as to why he hasn’t been signed yet; but if he has been flexible on the potential length of the contract, and the sticking point for teams is annual cost…then those teams are being dumber than a bag of rocks.