The Chicago Cubs still have Craig Kimbrel, which could help the Seattle Mariners bullpen
The Chicago Cubs still have a seven-time All-Star closer in Craig Kimbrel, and I do not think he will be in a Cubs uniform in 2021. Similar to Yu Darvish and Javier Baez, Kimbrel does not need much of an introduction. He was the Rookie of the Year in 2011, multiple top 10 Cy Young voting finishes, and a World Series with the Boston Red Sox from 2018. The only bad thing about Kimbrel is his 2019 and 2020 numbers.
The past two MLB seasons after joining the Cubs in June of 2019 has been a shock for many people who remember Kimbrel as a dominant closer. He still has a career 2.17 ERA, and 348 saves over 11 seasons in the MLB. Kimbrel is another big contract for the Cubs that might be worth shedding during this offseason. The Cubs owe him roughly $16 million in 2021 and is signed until 2022. Kimbrel is the third most expensive relief pitcher in the MLB going into 2021.
Jerry Dipoto mentioned at the beginning of the offseason that the bullpen will be a big focus for him in the offseason. There is an abundance of veteran relief pitchers on the free-agent market: Liam Hendriks, Shane Greene, Blake Treinen, or Keone Kela are just some examples. Although the supply of relief pitchers is surprisingly good this offseason, examining a Craig Kimbrel trade is worth it because his value might be at the lowest.
Kimbrel is 32-years-old and will turn 33 next May. It is not like Kimbrel has lost his velocity either, which he has relied on so heavily in his career. He has a 97.3 mph average fastball in 2020, and his career average is 97.7 mph according to Fan Graphs. In 2019 and 2020, the opposing barrel percentage was at a career-high during 2019 and 2020 which is very concerning.
In 2019, it was 17.3%, while in 2020, it was 18.5%. In 2015 for example, his barrel percentage was just 4.7%. Another glaring stat is his walk per nine innings ratio. Kimbrel has always struggled with control but in 2019, it was 5.2 walks per nine. And in 2020, a whopping 7.0 walks per nine. During his prime, his walk rate was in the 3.0 area.
Kimbrel may be a major risk for Jerry Dipoto and the Seattle Mariners, but if the Cubs are not asking for very much in return, it could be a high risk – high reward type of trade. Although Kimbrel’s recent performances have been terrible, it might be worth a flyer for the Mariners who are close to becoming a contending team. The Mariners have room because they have been rebuilding and dropped the salary mightily over the years. If Kimbrel is healthy and can find his old ways, this could be another Jerry Dipoto win.