Craig Kimbrel was supposed to be the final piece for the Padres during their crazy 2015 offseason. Nothing’s gone to plan for A.J. Preller in San Diego, so now he’s in sell mode. That apparently includes Kimbrel, because what good is a $13 million closer when you’re 7.5 games out of the playoffs?
Apparently Kimbrel could be on his way to the Yankees of all teams before the trade deadline later this afternoon.
If this comes to fruition the Yankees bullpen, on paper anyway, looks like one of the best in history and harkens back to the late 1990s when Mariano Rivera and others essentially turned playoff games into six-inning affairs. Buster Olney labeled the 1998 Yankees’ penthe best of all-time in a 2013 blog post, although I’d wager the Ned Yost Royals over the past two seasons might have something to say about that.
You could argue the Yankees need another starter given Michael Pineda hit the DL on Thursday, CC Sabathia continues to struggle and Masahiro Tanaka’s arm could give way on any pitch. That said, GM Brian Cashman probably saw the market for David Price, Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels or even Mike Leake and decided to fortify a strength rather than give up players for a pending free agent or, in Hamels case, someone owed a lot of money. The plan seems simple for the Yankees: keep the game close for six innings then turn it over to the bullpen and hope your batters hit some home runs off the opponent’s weaker bullpen in the late innings.
The Yankees bullpen ERA, as of today, is 3.24 — which is only ninth in baseball. The back-end trio of Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Chasen Shreve have combined to allow 23 runs in 130+ innings. Throw Kimbrel, and his lifetime 1.59 ERA, into that mix and it’s pretty scary for opponents. Maybe you worry about Kimbrel giving up more home runs pitching at Yankee Stadium, but he’s only allowed 15 in his entire career over six seasons.
Unlike the Nationals trading for Jonathan Papelbon, which demoted Drew Storen from the closer’s role adding Kimbrel shouldn’t do much to screw with the Yankees current set-up. Unlike Storen, Andrew Miller — the Yankees current closer — signed a big free agent contract over the winter so he doesn’t need the save statistic on his resume to help him secure more money. Miller spent most of his career as a lefty specialist and set-up guy prior to 2015, anyway.
Basically the Yankees can throw Betances, an All-Star in each of his two full seasons, and Miller in the seventh or eighth depending on matchups. Kimbrel can take the ball in the ninth for the final three outs. Good luck to the opponents.
Earlier in the week I wondered why the Yankees’ revival hasn’t rankled me more.
Well … a throwback to the days when the Yankees never coughed up a lead in the playoffs for about a decade just might do that.
If you don’t like the Yankees or don’t want to hear about them deep into October, hope this rumor is just that: a rumor.
Oh dear … the Yankees are also being linked to Aroldis Chapman as of Friday morning, so basically re-read everything about Kimbrel and make it about 2.5 times better.
If the Yankees land Chapman the “best ever” talk of their pen might not be pure headline hyperbole, either.
[Photo via USA Today Sports Images]