Why Craig Kimbrel is a Risky Proposition for the Toronto Blue Jays
The San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays seem like perfect trade partners. The Blue Jays need pitching, the Padres need pitching depth, help at shortstop, third base and centre field — all of which the Blue Jays have in their farm system.
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While many believe that James Shields would be a good fit for the Blue Jays, I have a hard time believing that the Jays would be willing to take on the remaining $65 million he’s owed over the next three seasons. Unless the Padres eat a portion of his salary, I think a pitcher like Andrew Cashner is a much more likely option for the Jays.
Starting pitchers aside, though, another name that has circulated in trade rumours with the Jays is Padres closer Craig Kimbrel.
As one of the game’s elite closers, Kimbrel does have some value. But it’s tough to imagine that teams are willing to pay him more than $10 million a year as he enters the back stretch of his career.
It’s not just the financial aspect that makes Kimbrel a risk, though. It’s his play on the field too. More specifically, there are three key areas for closers that Kimbrel has regressed in since 2010.
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On the contrary, Kimbrel’s stats may be regressing, but his velocity hasn’t slipped at all. In fact, his average fastball sits at 97.5 mph this season, which is the highest mark of his career.
“You don’t see the easy gas you used to see. He used to just overmatch hitters, and it’s not quite that easy for him.” Rival evaluator on Craig Kimbrel
But is that kind of velocity enough to overlook his regressing metrics? I’m sure many Jays’ fans remember Billy Koch. The flamethrower never lacked fastball velocity, but once he started to regress, the wheels fell off in a hurry.
I’m not saying Kimbrel is going to follow a similar path — he’s far more devastating than Koch ever was — but when you consider the financial ramifications attached to him, is he really somebody the Jays should pursue?
$9 million this year, $11 million in 2016, and $13 million in 2017. Plus, he has a team option for $13 million in 2018 that can be voided with a $1 million buyout.
So for a minimum grand total of roughly $30 million, is investing in a volatile position like a closer actually worth it?
I doubt it.
Keep in mind that the Padres paid a steep price to acquire Kimbrel, taking on the albatross contract of Melvin Upton Jr., while giving up prized prospect Matt Wisler. They will more than likely want a quality return in any trade involving Kimbrel, which would probably require the Blue Jays to part ways with either Daniel Norris, Dalton Pompey or Jeff Hoffman. Sure, Kimbrel is a stud, but again, is he really worth the salary commitment and required prospects?
While the Blue Jays do lack a “true closer”, they might be best suited to stay the course and see if young arms like Roberto Osuna, Miguel Castro, or even Aaron Sanchez, can develop into the ninth inning arm they sorely need.
For the most part, closers are transient. It’s a solid all-around bullpen that counts. Few remember the guys who got the ball to Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, but those guys are essential pieces to a team. If the Jays feel like they have those pieces in their bullpen, Kimbrel would be a quality short-term answer. But is he really worth committing to long-term at the cost he’s set to make?
Of course, it’s hard not to love Kimbrel. His stuff is electric. His mound presence is imposing. His slider is devastating. But even with all that, I’d tread carefully if I’m the Jays.
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