Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned and the New York Mets should take advantage of the limited market for the star reliever.
The Bryce Harper free agency saga is over! Harper, who has signed a massive 13-year $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies and is poised to be a thorn in the side of the New York Mets for many years to come.
Many Mets fans were hopeful that general manager Brodie Van Wagenen would attempt to court the star during his free agency period. His decision to sign in the NL East makes the team’s decision not to pursue him even more painful.
Where They Stand
Now that the dust has settled, many Mets fans are asking themselves one question: Where does the team go from here? An aggressive offseason in which the team added five former All-Stars (Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie, and Jeurys Familia) now seems much more disappointing. While the team does have the potential to contend for the postseason, they face one of the toughest divisions in baseball.
The Mets do, however, have an opportunity to swing momentum back in their favor. While the team missed out on the biggest name, there is still an elite player available. Former Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel remains a game-changing option on the open market.
What Kimbrel Improves
The potential addition of Kimbrel would unquestionably give the Mets the best bullpen in baseball. He is a seven-time All-Star and has a career ERA of 1.91. He is also only 30 years old. No other team could match the force of Familia, Kimbrel, and Diaz in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. They would automatically have an advantage against every team they face in 2019. Imagine the notion of facing Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, or Zack Wheeler, one to see this three-headed attack in the late innings. The Mets could seamlessly transition from their top-tier starting staff to an elite reliever.
Adding Kimbrel would also reduce pressure on the team’s hitters. While the Mets have certainly improved their offense this offseason, they are still expected to be a middle-tier unit. Combining the Mets starters with the three All-Star relievers would give the team an opportunity to win every time they scored multiple runs.
A Kimbrel deal would help the Mets seize momentum for a playoff run. Their division will be tough. After recent transactions many analysts expect New York to finish in the bottom half of the NL East. The team’s window to win with its current starting staff is also rapidly coming to a close. The addition would instantly give them the credibility and firepower needed to win a pennant.
How Kimbrel Fits
The next natural question is one of fit. How could three closers coexist on one staff? Familia seems content to pitch in any role with the Mets. Diaz and Kimbrel, however, are both career closers. Would one of them accept an eighth inning set up role?
The way the game has evolved, they just might! The traditional idea that the best bullpen arm closes the game is starting to change. Relievers are being used more creatively. Some have even begun start games. These advancements have devalued the save statistic. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader finished seventh in Cy Young voting last year despite only recording 12 saves.
Other former closers like Andrew Miller, David Robertson, and Dellin Betances have all found great success as multifunctional pitchers. If the Mets could convince either Diaz or Kimbrel to embrace a Hader-like role, they would be immensely valuable.
How the Mets Get Him
There is a reason a player of Kimbrel’s caliber is still available. Jason Stark of the Athletic has reported that Kimbrel is seeking a deal in the range of 6 years and $100 million. That kind of expense is outside the Mets’ budget. It is worth noting that this request was made in December. It is unclear whether the market has progressed to the point where any team will offer him that much money.
The Mets path to Kimbrel would likely come in the form of a shorter contract with a large yearly average. Something that would allow Kimbrel to make substantial money while proving his struggles in the 2018 postseason was a fluke. He would set himself up for another big pay-day, while the Mets utilized his talents without committing a great deal of long-term money.
Van Wagenen is a former agent. If anyone could come up with a creative way to make the addition, it would be him.
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What do you think about the idea of adding Kimbrel to an already loaded bullpen?