No Mariners Fans, The Team Should Not be Interested in Craig Kimbrel

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 14: Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox throws in the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 14, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Boston Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 2-1. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 14: Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox throws in the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 14, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Boston Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 2-1. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /

The Seattle Mariners are 5-1. I repeat: the Mariners have won 5 of their first 6 games. Along the way, the Seattle bullpen has been far from inspiring with their performance.

The combination of the hot start and uneasy bullpen performance has led some Mariners fans to demand the team sign future hall of fame reliever Craig Kimbrel. But here’s the thing guys: It doesn’t make any sense for them to do so.

Let’s start with the obvious question as we examine things: does Kimbrel even want to come here? As cool and fun as the 5-1 start is, nothing has changed from the expectations of 2019. The roster still has warts, and a veteran still unsigned at this stage can only expect a 1-year deal. With the Braves and Brewers reportedly still interested, would the Mariners make sense for Kimbrel? Probably not.

Besides all that, Kimbrel doesn’t make sense for the Mariners either. The basic argument on the “pro” side of the Kimbrel argument is that Seattle needs a closer, he’s still good, the team can sign and trade him this July. Each of these legs has pretty weak ground to stand on, particularly as they relate to the Mariners. Let’s take a look.

“Seattle Needs a Closer”

Do we really though? What is the difference between Kimbrel and the committee approach currently being used by Scott Servais? 3 wins? Maybe 4? So the team should shell out $10 million to maybe push them over the top of a .500 record? The simple truth is, there is no long-term benefit to winning 81 games vs 77 games. You still won’t make the playoffs, and will only fall further down the draft order, costing you valuable bonus pool money along the way.

In addition, the current set of arms in the Mariners pen is going to see additions quite soon. Anthony Swarzak could be reinstated from the IL today. Gerson Bautista is working his way back from a pec injury. Sam Tuivaiala is working his way back from the Achilles injury. Dan Altavilla has flashed at the big league level.

Those are just guys who have big league experience. Seattle also has a large group of relievers who could make their debuts in 2019, including Art Warren, Wyatt Mills, Joey Gerber, and even Erik Swanson. So why shell out big bucks for a short-term answer in a season where the grand prize is likely 84 wins?

All you would be doing is taking away an opportunity from a young group of relievers you need to find out more about. Perhaps your closer is already in the organization, and for the cost of 3 wins, you can have him in place for dirt cheap in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Seattle doesn’t need a closer. You just want one.

“Sign and Trade Mid-Season”

Again, Kimbrel and his agent aren’t stupid. Signing with the Mariners almost definitely means being traded to a team before August. Why sign on to a 3-month rental situation? All a trade does is eliminate Kimbrel’s choice of what playoff team he gets to pitch for. How does a signing here benefit him?

But setting aside what Kimbrel thinks, this is also flawed logic for the Mariners. Signing Craig Kimbrel would require the team to surrender it’s the 3rd highest draft choice this summer. For the Mariners, that would be the 76th overall selection. So now, Kimbrel has gotten $10 million, cost you the 76th pick and you are hoping the team can recoup that cost in July?

In July when the Mariners have no-leverage because every team in baseball knows you have to trade him, you think you’ll do better than the talent you can take at 76? Really? Don’t forget, losing that pick also cost you bonus pool money, making it harder to lure premier talents away from school with extra cash.

While you may be thinking “who cares about a third-round pick”, keep in mind that a few notable players selected in that range include Edwin Diaz, Harrison Bader, Jesus Luzardo, Sean Murphy, Braden Bishop, Garrett Hampson, and Dustin May. All are at least solid big leaguers or feature prominently on prospect ranking sites.

The odds that the Mariners can recoup that missing pick by trading Kimbrel are slim. They can never get that money back for their draft pool either. Signing Kimbrel will, at best, be a wash on your farm system and in all likelihood, make it a little bit worse than it could be.


Look, at the end of the day, I am all about “Team Fun” for 2019. So if the team ultimately did sign Kimbrel, I wouldn’t be upset. It would be a fun move after all. But it wouldn’t be smart. It will be difficult to watch the bullpen on many nights. But the “re-imagining” can’t work if, at the first sign of difficulty, you immediately go in a different direction.

Signing Craig Kimbrel would be fun and there is a small chance you come out on top of the trade. But remember, aside from the obvious reasons for the Mariners to stay away, this isn’t a very appetizing situation for Kimbrel either.

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It is entirely possible for a move like this to make sense one year from today. But for now, enjoy the ride and stick to the plan. The bullpen will bring on many anxiety attacks this season. I would start getting used to it now.