Mariners Free Agent Target: Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel has had a dominant career in the bullpen. Could the Mariners look to Kimbrel to further deepen their bullpen with another high-leverage arm?
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Six
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Six / Elsa/GettyImages
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Yes, he was bad in the playoffs. Craig Kimbrel had an ERA of 6.00 for the Phillies in the postseason and gave up a devastating home run that lost an ALCS game for them. The Seattle Mariners should still be interested.

The Mariners should sign Craig Kimbrel to a short-term free agent deal

Kimbrel had a very strong regular season, posting an ERA of 3.26 in 69.0 innings, the most he's thrown since 2017. While he ran out of juice for the playoffs due to throwing that many innings last year, Seattle's bullpen is strong enough that he won't need to if signed by the Mariners in 2024.

Kimbrel was an All-Star last year, largely on the strength of his fantastic 25-game stretch between May 9 and July 7, when he posted a 1.09 ERA. Even at 35 years old, Kimbrel still showed flashes of dominance coming out of the pen.

Seattle can use Kimbrel to help replace Paul Sewald, who was traded to the Diamondbacks last year, in a late-inning role. This isn't to say that Kimbrel would be the primary closer, but an elite set-up option.

Per Fangraphs, in 2023, Kimbrel posted a FIP of 3.42 in high-leverage situations. While it's true that in 2019 and 2020 Kimbrel was awful in this setting with Chicago, he appears to have turned it around, posting an average high-leverage FIP of 2.96 across 2021-2023, with 58.1 high-leverage innings pitched during that span.

Kimbrel is coming off of a one-year, ten-million-dollar contract with the Phillies. After his strong season, he is likely to command at least that same value. While this is expensive for a reliever, Seattle is in a strong position to contend, and signing Kimbrel seems worth it.

The Mariners already have a strong bullpen with a lot of talent. Kimbrel would add a proven veteran to that group with a track record of success. His great high-leverage pitching over the last three years (and his entire career except for his stint with Chicago) would help Seattle close out important games as they make another playoff push.