Former #RedSox Closer Craig Kimbrel Will Not Be in Attendance for Tuesday’s Ring Ceremony, Says Team President and CEO Sam Kennedy

Earlier last week, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy extended a formal invitation to former closer Craig Kimbrel to attend the club’s Opening Day festivities at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

Fast forward to Monday, the day before Boston’s home opener, and Kennedy told reporters that Kimbrel will in fact not be in attendance, as he does not want to cause any distractions.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo has the full quote from Kennedy:

Kimbrel, who of course won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2018, has yet to sign a contract with a big league club and remains a free agent.

When the report first popped up that the 30-year-old hurler could make an appearance at Fenway to receive his World Series ring, my initial reaction was that if you’re Dave Dombrowski, you can’t let that man leave without a contract offer.

Now, as we talk about the Red Sox bullpen 11 games into the new season, things do not as dire as many expected them to be. That much is highlighted by both Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier owning an ERA of 0.00 in eight combined appearances so far this year.

Still, one of the more elite relievers baseball has seen should be contributing in a major league bullpen right about now. We’ll have to wait and see if that happens anytime soon though, especially with a compensatory draft pick potentially on the line for the Red Sox.

Any way, first pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays is scheduled for 2:05 PM EDT on Tuesday at Fenway Park, with pregame festivities kicking off the day at 1 PM EDT.

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Free Agent Closer Craig Kimbrel Reportedly Considering Sitting out 2019 Season

UPDATE: It looks like this report may indeed be untrue, according to the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel may be willing to sit out the 2019 season if he does not receive a contract offer close to his ‘perceived value’, reports The Athletic’s Jim Bowden.

Back at the Baseball Winter Meetings this past December, it was reported that Kimbrel was seeking a contract in the six-year and $100 million range, which would be a record-setting deal for a closer.

Touted by his agent David Meter as the ‘best-closer of all-time’, the 30-year-old Kimbrel posted a 2.74 ERA while converting 42 saves in 63 relief appearances and 62.1 innings pitched with Boston in 2018.

According to FanGraphs, Kimbrel has been the second most valuable reliever in the American League since joining Boston prior to the start of the 2016 season.

His case for being one of the more dominant closers of this generation is certainly there, so it’s understandable why the Alabama native and his camp are trying to squeeze the most value out of his next contract as possible. Still, sitting out an entire season would be an extreme measure that does not need to be taken.

Simply put, Kimbrel, who will be turning 31 in May, may just be on a bit of a decline. Compare his numbers over the last two seasons:

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ERA+ was down, FIP was up, WHIP was up, H/9 was up, HR/9 was up, SO/9 was down, and maybe most importantly, BB/9 increased by nearly three from 2017 to 2018. Now, it’s only a small sample size, but this could be a sign of things to come.

A six-year contract for a relief pitcher over the age of 30 was probably never going to happen given the current state of Major League Baseball. If Kimbrel and his camp can accept that, then it would be intriguing to see if Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox could get the flamethrower back on a one-year deal that closely resembles a qualifying offer in the range of $17-$18 million.

That might be a pipe dream at this point, but it is a better option than seeing one of the more electric arms in this game sitting out a year of his prime just to recoup his value for next offseason.

One Burning Question for Each #RedSox Position Group Headed into Spring Training.

The Red Sox are set to kick off their spring workouts this coming week beginning with pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Fenway South in Fort Myers on Tuesday.

The blueprint for attempting to repeat as World Series champions will be created over the next month and a half before the club hits the road for an 11-game west coast road trip to kick off their 2019 campaign.

There are obviously many components involved in this process, so I went ahead and composed a handful of questions pertaining to each Red Sox position group.

Starting pitchers – Will Chris Sale be able to stay healthy for a full season?

Chris Sale dealt with numerous throwing shoulder issues in 2018, limiting him to 27 starts in the regular season and just 15.1 innings pitched in the postseason. Still, the left-hander posted a 2.11 ERA, averaged 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and finished top five in American League Cy Young voting for the sixth consecutive year. Not to mention he recorded the final out of the World Series as well.

So, heading into the final year of his contract before hitting free agency, the spotlight will be on Sale to see if he can sustain his typical success over the course of a full season’s workload. Without a doubt, it’s going to be an important season for the Florida native. How he holds up may just dictate who comes out on top in a competitive American League East.

Relief pitchers – Who will serve as the Red Sox’ closer in 2019?

Speaking of pitching, it seems as though Dave Dombrowski is comfortable with the idea of either Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier serving as the Red Sox’ closer to at least begin the 2019 season.

That in mind, the best relief pitcher on the market who just so happens to have spent the last three seasons in a Red Sox uniform is still available.

Given how this winter’s free agency has panned out, I’ve grown more and more content with the thought of the Red Sox offering Craig Kimbrel a one-year deal for the 2019 season with a value similar to that of the qualifying offer the flame-throwing closer declined in November.

I have a feeling the soon to be 31-year-old Kimbrel would prefer a multi-year deal, but whether it be Barnes, Brasier, or Kimbrel manning the ninth inning for Boston in 2019, the bullpen is surely far from perfect and will more than likely be the club’s weakest link.

Catchers – Which Red Sox catcher, if any, will get traded before Opening Day?

It’s been reported this winter that the Red Sox would prefer not to carry three catchers on their 25-man roster like they did for parts of the 2018 season heading into the 2019 campaign.

Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, and Sandy Leon may all be available via trade as Opening Day looms, but who has the best case to be moved?

Swihart, for starters, is the most appealing option in this scenario.

Turning 27 in April, the former top prospect’s big league career has not exactly panned out the way many envisioned it would when he made his debut with Boston in 2015.

This past season, Swihart was limited to just 207 plate appearances in an extremely limted role with the club, slashing .229/.285/.328 with three home runs and 18 RBI over that span.

Still, the Texas native is viewed by many as Boston’s most appealing backstop. Red Sox manager Alex Cora even said, “I want to see Blake catching more. I’ll give him a chance to,” back at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December.

With Leon and Vazquez in the mix as well, the Red Sox’ catching competition will definitely be something worth paying attention to over the course of the spring.

Infielders – Is Rafael Devers poised for a breakout in 2019?

The second year third baseman blew everyone away with his consistently clutch play this past October as he collected nine RBI in all three postseason series combined, with three of those coming on a game-sealing three-run home run off of Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the ALCS.

But in his first full regular season with Boston, the 22-year-old posted a below average 94 OPS+, committed 24 errors manning the hot corner, and even struggled to find playing time at different points throughout the year.

So, heading into the 2019 season, what should be expected of Devers? The pressure will certainly be on with Eduardo Nunez proving to be a capable third baseman when healthy, and the Red Sox have prospects such as Michael Chavis Bobby Dalbec looming in the minor leagues as well.

If this picture is evident of anything…

…then I fully expect the Dominican Republic native to get to somewhere close to 30-35 home runs this year to go along with a slugging percentage north of .490. One of the more interesting breakout candidates to watch for on this club.

Outfielders – Can Jackie Bradley Jr. put together a consistently solid season at the plate?

Finally, Red Sox fans all know Jackie Bradley Jr. is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the American League, that much has proven thanks to his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2018.

What people want to see are consistent at bats from the 28-year-old outfielder.

In the second half of last season, Bradley Jr. slashed .269/.340/.487 with seven home runs and 27 runs driven in. Pretty solid numbers over a span of 58 games.

If the South Carolina native could put those type of numbers together for the length of a full season in 2019, then I think it’s safe to say that the Red Sox will have the best outfield in baseball.

All pictures courtesy of Billie Weiss.

Philadelphia Phillies and RHP David Robertson Agree to Two-Year Deal.

The Philadelphia Phillies have reached an agreement with free agent reliever David Robertson on a two-year, $23 million dollar contract, per the team’s official Twitter account. As the tweet reads, the contract also includes a club option worth approximately $12 million for a potential third year.

Robertson, 33, had spent the past season and a half with the Yankees before signing his deal with Philadelphia on Thursday.

Back in November, it was reported that the right-hander was looking to sign on with a club near his home in Rhode Island, thus the Red Sox were viewed as legitimate suitors for Robertson’s services.

Instead, the University of Alabama alum more than likely chose the team that offered him the most money in the Phillies, while also not straying off too far from the Ocean State.

Known for providing quality work out of the bullpen in a variety of roles throughout his 11-year major league career, Robertson posted a 3.23 ERA and 11.8 K/9 over 69 relief appearances and 69.2 innings pitched with New York in 2018. He also recorded five saves.

With this news, one would have to assume that Philadelphia is out of the running for free agent closer Craig Kimbrel after adding Robertson to the back-end of the bullpen.

Whether or not that increases the chances of a reunion between the Red Sox and the seven-time All-Star remains to be seen, but President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has essentially kept that door open for the time being. And as we near closer and closer to spring training, Kimbrel’s price is sure to go down.

The Red Sox have also remained interest in free agents Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton. If I were to guess on where each would be going, I would venture to say one signs with Boston, while the other winds up in the Bronx, best case scenario.

Envisioning a Scenario Where Craig Kimbrel Returns to the #RedSox.

According to several media outlets, Craig Kimbrel is reportedly seeking a six-year contract worth up to $100 million in free agency this winter.

That would be a record deal for a closer, one fit for, “the best closer of all time,” according to Kimbrel’s agent David Meter.

Seven weeks after winning the World Series, the Red Sox find themselves in need of some help out of the bullpen in 2019, even more so now with Joe Kelly reportedly inking a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The market for Kimbrel remains to be seen thus far into the offseason. The Philadelphia Phillies seem like the ideal suitor based on their need for a closer and their willingness to spend big, but nothing has formulated on that front to this point outside of some speculation.

If the Phillies were not to splurge on the flame-throwing right-hander and pursue an alternative, then that could ultimately give the Red Sox a chance to retain the services of their three-time All-Star.

Use JD Martinez as a prime example in this case. Prior to signing with Boston this past February, the Miami native was reportedly seeking a mega-deal in free agency for months.

Granted, Martinez still got paid, but the terms agreed upon were more team friendly than initially thought.

So, with that in mind, let’s say Kimbrel remains a free agent through the winter months, holding out in hopes of receiving a hefty contract offer.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has already stated that the club will wait the reliever market out.

“At this time of year, if you’re going to sign somebody, you’re going to be aggressive and try to make it happen with big dollars,” Dombrowski said at the Baseball Winter Meetings last week. “We’re not at that point in the reliever market.”

Given the fact that Dombrowski has already doled out $68 million to RHP Nathan Eovaldi earlier in the month, a reunion with Kimbrel for a steep price seems unlikely now, but things could change once Spring Training begins to loom.

Take into consideration that the 30-year-old presumably knows the Red Sox organization inside and out. The city, the culture, the media. That’s all covered if Kimbrel remains in Boston

Having been with the club since 2016, Kimbrel, albeit shaky at times, has posted quality numbers in Boston and has maintained his status as one of the more elite relievers in all of baseball.

If the demand for the Alabama native is not as hyped as initially thought, then perhaps Craig Kimbrel will be taking the mound in a Red Sox uniform once again in 2019.

 

Craig Kimbrel Rejects $17.9 Million Qualifying Offer from #RedSox.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski announced on Monday that Craig Kimbrel has officially rejected his qualifying offer, making him a free agent.

This news may not come as a surprise to some, but it does leave the World Series champions without a closer, for now.

If Kimbrel does choose to sign elsewhere this winter, such as with the Atlanta Braves or Philadelphia Phillies, that particular club will owe Boston a compensatory pick in next year’s draft, which is set to land somewhere after the fourth round.

The Red Sox extended the QO with a value of $17.9 million to Kimbrel on November 2nd, giving the seven-time All-Star 10 days to either accept or reject.

With this rejection, Kimbrel will more than likely become one of the highest paid relievers in all of baseball, joining the likes of Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen and Yankees ninth-inning man Aroldis Chapman, whose current deals have a combined worth of $166 million over 10 total years, per Spotrac.

Over the course of the GM meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. this past week, Kimbrel’s agent, David Meter, pitched his client as, “the best closer of all-time,” so you can expect the Alabama native to seek out a hefty pay-day in the coming weeks.

Given the very real possibility the Red Sox decide to not commit that much to their closer for the past three seasons, we could be looking at Matt Barnes, or even Ryan Brasier as ninth inning options in 2019.

Dombrowski made clear on Nov. 1st that if Kimbrel were to leave, “We do think that we do have a situation where internally we have a couple of candidates to do that – Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are the top candidates.”

That remains to be seen, as there is still a slight possibility that the Red Sox retain the services of Kimbrel to remain their closer. But, given the way relief pitching appears to be trending, it would not be surprising if Dombrowski and/or Alex Cora would prefer a closer who could come on and pitch multiple innings in order to lock up wins.

In his three-year tenure with Boston, the 30-year-old Kimbrel seemed to struggle with this task regularly, as well as securing saves in tight, late-game situations at times.

If this is it for Kimbrel in a Red Sox uniform, it was certainly a memorable run. Three seasons, three All-Star team selections, an elite 2017, and a World Series championship in 2018.

#RedSox Extend Qualifying Offer of $17.9 Million to Craig Kimbrel.

On Friday, NBC Sports Boston’s Evan Drellich reported that the Red Sox had extended a qualifying offer to Craig Kimbrel.

The qualifying offer, which has a value of $17.9 million, also has an expiration date, as the right-handed Kimbrel now has 10 days or either accept or decline it.

Regardless of the decision the flame throwing closer makes, this moves seems to be a win-win for the Red Sox. Either they get their All-Star reliever back for another season on a rather expensive deal, or, if Kimbrel declines the QO and chooses to sign elsewhere, the Red Sox will receive a compensatory pick in next year’s MLB draft from that club.

According to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, “only five of the 73 players who have been extended qualifying offers since this system began in 2012 have accepted the offers.”

With that statistic in mind, I’m going to go ahead and Say Kimbrel will turn down the QO and opt for a long-term deal with a team willing to splurge on a closer.

Whether or not the Red Sox are willing to spend that much on a ninth-inning man has yet to be determined. But, from what I have gathered recently, and sound more and more likely that the club likes their internal options to take over that spot, such as Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier.

In his third and potential final season with Boston, Kimbrel notched 42 saves to go along with a 2.74 ERA and 96 strikeouts over 62.1 innings pitched. He also made his third consecutive All-Star team and became a World Series champion for the first time in his career.

MLB free agency is set to begin this weekend. Stay tuned.