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Why I'm Out On Craig Kimbrel

Posted by Tom Froemming , 19 May 2019 · 5,737 views

craig kimbrel
Even a really great meal goes stale eventually.

I desperately wanted the Twins to do more to upgrade the bullpen this offseason, and was supportive of the idea of them pursuing Craig Kimbrel at one point, but I'm out now. I don't really want anything to do with him.

My frustration with the bullpen inactivity was never tied to any one particular reliever. Things have boiled own to that, since Kimbrel is the last man standing, but there were several attractive free agent bullpen pieces out there this winter. The Twins didn't sign any of them. I'm over it.

I'm not saying this bullpen is fine as it's currently constructed. While Ryne Harper has been a pleasant surprise and the backed trio of Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers and Trevor May has mostly looked good, there are some legit concerns about the depth.

But bringing in a project isn't the answer. Kimbrel is one of the greatest closers of all time. There's also a reason why he's still unemployed. Here are a few:

-He has to be rusty. This is item No. 1 with a bullet. There's no way he can possibly be sharp, I don't care what kind of simulated games he may be throwing.

-He had a 4.57 ERA in the second half and a 5.91 ERA in the postseason last year.

-His fastball velocity dropped from 98.72 mph in 2017 to 97.63 mph last year.

-It actually took him awhile to work up to that velocity last season, sitting below 97 mph through April. Yes, he's been working out, but I'd still be concerned it would take him some time to get up to full speed.

-His ground ball rate dropped from 37.0% to 28.2% last year.

-His line drive rate went up from 19.4% to 24.8% last year.

-He had a worse first-pitch strike rate (56.3%) than Fernando Rodney last year.

-He had the eighth-lowest rate of pitches in the zone (36.6%) of the 151 qualified relievers last year.

-He walked 12.6% of the batters he faced last year. That is horrible. It was the 20th-worst rate among 336 pitchers who logged more than 50 innings last year.

In nearly every single positive mention of the Twins I see, there is somebody in the comments who calls for Kimbrel. I get it, I just think the idea of Kimbrel doesn't even accurately reflect who he actually is at this point.

If the Twins seek to improve the bullpen, they should be looking for guys who are trending upward. Or at least, you know, active. Maybe Kimbrel will be great, I don't know, but I am comfortable with another team taking on that project. There are other ways to boost the bullpen.

  • nicksaviking, brvama, Danchat and 8 others like this

May 19 2019 02:04 PM

Thanks for that slap in the face Tom. I needed that.

And as I keep saying... if the Red Sox have zero interest in him, that's all I need to know.


And, while they may not be Kimbrel, guys like Morin, Harper, Adams, and Addison Reed remind us that high priced relievers don't have to be the answer.

    • luckylager, Danchat and KGB like this
They could sign him to a minor league deal with a promise of a promotion after 30 days...I'm indifferent on Kimbral. I would like the Twins to sign him. But not at the Price he wants. I'm thinking 2/24 or 26 tops. I don't want to get stuck in a bad contract. But at the above price Is a good risk point to me .

You made a lot of good points, Tom. He's not worth the asking price, especially in the middle of the season. I'd rather see the Twins make a trade with SF or Baltimore. 

    • bighat likes this

Also, that he's likely shown no interest in playing for the Twins.


It's hard to imagine a guy who doesn't sign a contract until June as a positive clubhouse presence.


I'm concerned that he'd be another LoMo or Lynn, though a multi-year deal might chance my mind.


And as I keep saying... if the Red Sox have zero interest in him, that's all I need to know.


And, while they may not be Kimbrel, guys like Morin, Harper, Adams, and Addison Reed remind us that high priced relievers don't have to be the answer.

Red Sox don't want to pay the extremely high luxury tax for him.

    • jud6312 and IMissJoeMauer like this

A refreshing dose of common sense.Gracias amigo!

May 20 2019 08:00 AM

I think it was Greg Holland who was signed late by the Cardinals just a year ago and was a disaster.  

    • Danchat likes this
Go get Will Smith from San Francisco, like yesterday.
May 20 2019 09:39 AM

Even with the drop in velocity, he's still well above average for a RP. I guess there's probably legitimate questions as to whether or not he was dealing with stuff... but even with those peripheral changes, he was a very good pitcher last season. I could see being leary of a long term deal, but I don't see why they don't try to get him to help.

Kimbral is still pretty good but not worth what he is asking. Hard to pay him 20 million a year and fit him into the current staff, some of whom have better numbers now than Kimbral had last season. Hey, I know how about trading for a guy with a 0.00 era in 20 innings. His name is Ryan Pressley. 

I agree Tom. What worries me most is the rust factor - think about Lynn's start to the season last year. It's going to take Kimbrel at least 2 months on an MLB roster to even start to warm up. You also HAVE to play the guy even when he's struggling just to get those innings under his belt. Other teams are staying away, I think the Twins should do the same. Luckily our management isn't often the type to go in on a situation like this.


I think the Twins should work something out via trade in July, and I am sure they will.

    • Dman likes this
Based on history of success, I'd still be in for 1yr at fair value. (Not sure what that $ is, to be honest). A club option wouldn't be bad, but doubt he would go for it anyway.

But for me, that's about it. I'd rather invest a couple solid prospects in to a trade acquired arm that's actually pitching now and pitching well. If we signed Kimbrel tomorrow, hes probably not ready until mid June at the earliest.
May 20 2019 02:51 PM

I'm right there with Tom. The bullpen has been just fine, but I don't trust it so I'd like to find some upgrades. And while I wanted Kimbrel early on, I don't trust any pitcher to round into form this late into the year.


I would disagree in that while his end of 2018 numbers aren't pretty, his velocity is likely still good enough to work; but perhaps not until 2020. So I'd take him on a multi-year deal but I'd think there'd be a better than even chance that he'd be a pretty big liability for the 2019 club. 

May 20 2019 05:00 PM

Cannot release where the info comes from, but the word on Kimbrel is that his knee is a major question. He had some major issues a couple years ago and came back way too fast, and it's never healed right. He was encouraged to get full reconstructive surgery this offseason after things were done on a wing and a prayer last year with the Red Sox training staff, and he chose to wait until after he'd signed.




Teams don't want to commit over $15M per season for 3+ years to a guy who has a good chance that he'll miss a full year of that contract and is no sure bet to come back at full strength once he does return. He's had many 1-year offers and even 2-year offers for plenty more than the qualifying offer, and he turned them down.


The one thing I'm reading here is discussing his clubhouse demeanor because he's unsigned...that's hogwash. Kimbrel is an amazing clubhouse guy, and if it were based on presence in the clubhouse, he'd be worth every penny of what he's asking. That sort of comment is definitely unfounded.


Another point to consider is that the Twins currently sit with 11 picks and a draft pool of $9.9M. Signing Kimbrel would remove their 2nd round pick, which would remove roughly $1.34M from that pool. Coming into negotiations with your picks at #13 and #39 with $9.9M is a whole lot different than coming in with $8.25M.

    • h2oface likes this
May 20 2019 05:22 PM
Why not sign Kimbrel and acquire Doolittle??
May 21 2019 10:59 AM
Yeah the Kimbrell ship has sailed. With no help coming for awhile in the minors, I bet we trade for a guy that's having a successful season thus far(at the time of the trade I mean)
May 21 2019 11:01 AM

Why not sign Kimbrel and acquire Doolittle??
d I'm pretty sure the Nats aren't looking to deal any relievers that have even been adequate so far. Their pen is a capital MESS.
    • TFRazor likes this

With signing Kimbrel though, all it takes is $$. He's still a more than competent relief arm with good stuff. The movement on his FB is there. I'm still all for adding relief pitching depth, and Kimbrel doesn't cost prospects.


Never heard about the knee issue; that concerns me though. 


And as I keep saying... if the Red Sox have zero interest in him, that's all I need to know.


And, while they may not be Kimbrel, guys like Morin, Harper, Adams, and Addison Reed remind us that high priced relievers don't have to be the answer.


I think the luxury tax may play at least a small part in the Sox lack of action on him.I also believe they saw some thing(s) in his performance last year that they weren't all in on resigning him.He is digging in and so are teams.I don't see a team caving to his multi year demand.