CHICAGO (CBS) — Apparently, the Cubs found a few extra coins in the coffers. The self-proclaimed cash-poor club has finally ponied up some cash for a legitimate closer, signing seven-time All-Star Craig Kimbrel.
According to published reports, his deal with the Cubs is for three years and $43 million, with a fourth-year option.
Kimbrel, who has 333 career saves, had turned down a one-year deal from the Red Sox after the 2018 season.
He was stuck in free agent limbo in the offseason, as any team that signed him would have had to give up at least one draft pick, but with the MLB Draft now over, draft pick compensation was no longer required to acquire Kimbrel.
At 31, Kimbrel is coming off a season in which he went 42 for 47 in save chances with the Red Sox, with 96 strikeouts and a 2.74 ERA in 62 1/3 innings.
However, he also walked 31 batters, and had career-worst numbers in home runs and extra-base hits allowed, as his fastball velocity dropped to an average of 97.6 mph, his lowest mark since 2011.
Still, his signing is a major boon for the Cubs, who haven’t had a dedicated closer all season, with Brandon Morrow on the injured list all year, Pedro Strop spending more than three weeks in Triple-A Iowa, and Steve Cishek blowing two of his eight save opportunities.
Cishek said he’s happy to have Kimbrel on his side.
“I mean, other than the fact that he throws 98 mile an hour fastballs with a wipeout slider. I mean, I think that’s a pretty good recipe for success,” he said. “If I’m an opposing hitter, and I see him coming in the 9th, I’m not going to be too pumped.”
Slugger Kyle Schwarber said Kimbrel is obviously one of the best closers in baseball.
“Whenever you get a guy like that, obviously you’re going to be excited,” he said. “I think that’s going to be able to help everyone out. It’s going to be able to help obviously the team out, and obviously those guys down in the bullpen, where everything kind of lines up now, and everyone knows where they might be at, and no mixing and matching, really. Just go out there and do their job now.”
Kimbrel has reportedly been throwing on his own these past few weeks and months, though it is likely he will have to pitch in some minor-league games before joining the Cubs. His arm is in shape and that’s half the battle. He still has to get game ready and prepare to face big-league hitters. It could be a week or two until he’s available.
The Cubs are 34-26 and one game ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central after Wednesday’s 9-8 victory over the Rockies. It had been previously reported that Ben Zobrist’s family-related stint on the restricted list could free up enough money — players are not paid while on the restricted list — to sign Kimbrel, and that seems to be exactly what happened.