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:
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.