This time of the year is always exciting as a baseball fan, the start of spring training brings an undeniable energy that rejuvenates every single fanbase across the country, yes, even Mariners fans. But the last two offseasons now have brought the droning, political, and monotonous free agency cycle bleeding into the beginning of spring training. Whether it be the owners becoming greedy and selfish in their wealth, the front offices becoming wiser in how money is allocated in free agent deals, or Scott Boras wanting to piss off every single team with his negotiating style, players and teams are no longer seeing eye-to-eye and deals have taken longer to manifest.
Even with the shocking announcement of Manny Machado manifest destinying his way out west again, there still sits a bounty of veteran players available on the free agent market including a handful of players who would make every team in baseball better with their presence. One of those players is Craig Kimbrel, a hard-throwing righty who looks like a stunt double who Peter Jackson rejected from his Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Even with this demeanor, Kimbrel has carved out a career as one of the best closers in the game and currently sits as the 14th highest saves getter in MLB history despite being only 30.
Now, before I go any farther, I want to make something very clear. I have been a fan of the moves the Twins have made so far this offseason. I love the Cruz addition along with both Kepler’s and Polanco’s extensions, I like the Parker, Schoop, and Cron additions, and I have even come around on believing in a Martin Perez bounceback. I have especially been a fan of the revamped coaching staff at all levels that have included hiring a slew of progressive, forward-thinking coaches with Rocco Baldelli now at the helm of the major league team. I also love reading stories about Wes Johnson, who would probably whoop Rick Anderson if he heard him talking about “pitching to contact”.
That all being said, it feels disappointing as a fan to see such a large amount of payroll currently sitting there completely unused. Even the most radical fan understood that they were never going to spend like the Dodgers, but there is still a decent gap between where they are now and where they could still be within the usual parameters of their spending habits. And the size of that gap is 6 feet tall and sticks his arm out like a pelican before delivering a pitch.
When talking about Kimbrel’s dominance, his stats truly speak for themselves. His career 14.67 K/9 is so obscene and disgusting that even speaking it out loud could get you arrested for indecent exposure. His career fWAR of 19.0 is 14th all-time among relievers despite the fact that he has half or even a third of the total innings of some of the names ahead of him. His career ERA of 1.91 is 1st among all relievers in MLB history with at least 500 innings thrown. Yes, it is lower than perfect hall of famer, Mariano Rivera. And take a good guess where his career FIP ranks also among relievers with at least 500 innings pitched.
Ah, but there is indeed a reason why Kimbrel has not signed isn’t there? We all know what his career has been so far, but MLB teams care more about where your career is going from here, and as I found out in a previous article, relievers typically have a short shelf life in MLB. Kimbrel struggled in 2018 or at least did so by his standards, much like when the smart kid gets an A-. But this A- came with a higher than normal BB/9 of 4.48, a lower than normal K/9 of 13.68, a 2nd half ERA of 4.57, and one hell of a messy playoff streak that is still in the minds of everyone.
Despite what the narratives feel like for the redbeard though, his ERA last year was still just 2.74 and his FIP was a “high” 3.13. That FIP would slide in right behind Taylor Rogers and Trevor May for the Twins and be 3rd among their relievers in 2018 or by relievers who threw a full season for the Twins and only the Twins last year, just Taylor Rogers.
Strategically, having the sleeping dragon as the final boss in the Twins pen would have an incredible ripple effect throughout all their relievers. May and Rogers would be unleashed in fireman roles, calming down rallies before they even get a chance to begin. Trevor Hildenberger and Addison Reed can re-find their footing in lower leverage roles earlier in the game and eat up important innings before the meat of the pen can do their work. Blake Parker can go do Blake Parker things when needed and Fernando Romero can terrorize hitters at will with his disgusting 98 MPH two-seamer. In my plan, Andrew Vasquez is also here to serve up sliders at a rate that would make White Castle jealous because Gabriel Moya gives me anxiety when he pitches. Also, replacing Matt Magill with Kimbrel would take their projected fWAR total out of the bullpen from 19th in baseball at 2.1 to tied with the Astros at 4th with an fWAR total of 4.2. And changing Magill with Kimbrel in practice is a lot like replacing a flyswatter with a bazooka.
I’ve gushed over Kimbrel’s ability quite a lot in this article, but something that a lot of Twins fans would also like to know is that his average fastball velocity last year was 97.1 MPH. Yes, he threw 97 on average. Was there even a guy for the Twins last year to throw a single heater that fast? Maybe old man Rodney, but no one else was doing it as consistently as Kimbrel over here. And as a fan of a team that has been notoriously poor in developing hard-throwing pitchers cough cough, Alex Meyer, cough cough, wouldn’t it feel great to finally have a guy spitting fire in the pen?
Earlier this month, Dan Hayes did mention that there was interest on the Twins side to bring Kimbrel aboard and with recent news that the Red Sox would rather play with their World Series trophy than bring him back, the amount of teams that are in play for Kimbrel appears to be limited. While we have heard nothing as far as years and money that the Twins have offered, I can say with a good deal of confidence that there is no contract they could offer that would tank them for the duration of such a deal. I personally would offer Kimbrel a 3 year $54 million deal with a vesting option for a 4th year. That $18 million would bring the Twins to a payroll total around the number it was at last year and would make them more respectable in the AL Central battle between them and the Indians without having to sacrifice flexibility for future contracts if other young guys figure their stuff out.
So, Derek Falvey or whatever Twins front office member that stumbles on this article, I beg of you, sign this man to a contract as soon as you can. Twins fans would be very pleased and you would earn a good deal of credit in their eyes as they are begging for you to spend some money. Not only that, but you guys can get creative and put together an elaborate entrance plan for him as you did with Rodney, complete with flashing lights and hype music that could be heard from St. Cloud.
I’ll leave you with Craig Kimbrel stealing Giancarlo Stanton’s soul with a curveball that would make Bert Blyleven proud.
Now, does anyone know what Falvey’s email is? I’m trying to CC him this article but I can’t find him anywhere.