It took all the way until June 5, but finally, finally, one of the handful of best closers in baseball has landed a job. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Craig Kimbrel has reached an agreement to join the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs on a multiyear deal:
Kimbrel, a seven-time All-Star, leads all active major league pitchers in saves with 332, and was the closer for the Red Sox last season during their World Series run. He’s been stuck in free agency ever since, after the Red Sox made him a relatively paltry one-year, $18 million qualifying offer last November. Kimbrel, seeking longer-term security and a more lucrative payday, has been unemployed in part because, by making the qualifying offer, the Red Sox made it so that any team that signed Kimbrel before June 3 would’ve owed Boston a compensatory draft pick. The other, larger, more game-breaking condition driving Kimbrel’s continued unemployment comes down to modern baseball franchises being run like penny-pinching businesses instead of, you know, baseball teams competing for supremacy in a functional league. No part of this had anything to do with his ability to pitch.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Kimbrel’s job prospects picked up in earnest after that June 2 deadline—in addition to the Cubs, Kimbrel was reportedly in talks with the Dodgers and Mets, “among other teams.” The Cubs will immediately slot Kimbrel in as their closer, and the rest of their overburdened bullpen will slide down a spot, starting with Pedro Strop, who returned from injury yesterday and shares the lead among Cubs relievers with just five saves on the season. The other good news for Kimbrel, in addition to landing a job for which he is ridiculously qualified, is the current CBA makes it so that he can never be subjected to qualifying offer hell again in his career. Huzzah.