Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
Jeff Passan of ESPN reported the financial details of the three-year deal:
Jeff Passan @JeffPassan
Craig Kimbrel’s deal with the Chicago Cubs is for three years and $43 million and includes a fourth-year option, sources tell ESPN. He’ll receive $10 million this season and $16 million in 2020 and 2021. There is a $1 million buyout on a club/vesting option for the fourth year.
It marks the fourth team of the reliever’s career.
Boston extended Kimbrel the $17.9 million qualifying offer, but the reliever declined it. By waiting until after June 2 to sign the free agent, Chicago voided having to give up draft-pick compensation.
He sat out the start of the 2019 campaign as he waited for the right deal to present itself. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden reported in April that Kimbrel’s agent, Dave Meter, was initially seeking a six-year, $120 million deal for his client, though he later lowered the asking price to the $100 million range over five years.
Ultimately, the Cubs put a deal on the table that Kimbrel and Meter were willing to take.
Kimbrel made a name for himself while debuting for the Atlanta Braves, winning the 2011 Rookie of the Year, making four All-Star teams while also receiving Cy Young and MVP votes. He posted a 1.43 ERA in 294 appearances over five years in Atlanta.
After leading the National League in saves for four consecutive seasons, he was traded to the San Diego Padres in a salary dump, which also included outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. The closer spent one year in San Diego before being traded to the Boston Red Sox.
Kimbrel settled in rather nicely in Boston. He went 10-1 with 77 saves and a 2.07 ERA in 130 appearances over the last two seasons, earning All-Star nods in each campaign. He posted an eye-popping 1.43 ERA and a 0.681 WHIP in 67 appearances in 2017, allowing just 11 earned runs in 69 innings.
As Boston won a franchise-record 108 games this past season, Kimbrel posted a 2.47 ERA in 63 outings while notching 42 saves, his highest total since his final season with the Atlanta Braves in 2014.
Now, the 31-year-old will be moving on to the Windy City.
Rosenthal reported on Saturday that the Cubs may be in the Kimbrel sweepstakes as the uncertainty surrounding Ben Zobrist’s trip to the restricted list could give them some unexpected financial flexibility. Should Zobrist miss the rest of the season, the club could reportedly save more than $9 million.
As a result, Kimbrel became a viable option.
Chicago’s bullpen has lacked a shutdown closer this season, with four different players recording at least one save in the first two-plus months. No single reliever had more than five saves despite the Cubs winning 31 games through the end of May.
During the 2016 World Series run, the Cubs solidified their bullpen by bringing in closer Aroldis Chapman in a midseason trade. They are hoping Kimbrel can have a similar impact—but this move did not cost them anything other than money.
With Kimbrel now in the mix, manager Joe Maddon can utilize the bullpen more freely. With the ninth inning in good hands, the likes of Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler can be used earlier in games.
Kimbrel has proved it doesn’t matter where he pitches. National League, American League, Atlanta, San Diego, Boston—he is the same shutdown reliever wherever he goes. And that’s why the Cubs decided to spend the money and bring in one of the best closers in MLB history.